The great battle of the AI smart assistants is gearing up nicely as Lenovo, Mayfield Robotics and Emotech launched new products at CES 2017 in Las Vegas.
The Amazon Echo is not a new product, but since its launch at the end of 2014 sales have more than doubled, particularly following the recent festive period. The voice-powered virtual assistant acts as a helper in the home, controlling internet-connected devices and answering user commands through the Alexa artificial intelligence system when called upon.
But while Amazon may not have been the first to provide these smart assistants, others are now jostling for position in a growing marketplace, and some interesting newcomers have come to the fore.
As of this week at the CES convention in Las Vegas, Lenovo has followed suit – almost identically – by launching its own version of the Echo, Emotech has gone one further with its assistant of many (artificial) personalities, and Mayfield Robotics has created a mobile home robot with a spark of personality but no voice (think BB-8 but for the home). More follows below.
Chinese tech giant, Lenovo, is perhaps the greatest threat of the three having just launched the Lenovo Smart Assistant – an Alexa-powered assistant and speaker.
The basic version is seemingly identical to the Echo in functionality, as users simply ask it questions or give commands, such as to play music or turn down the heating, and it responds accordingly.
It also comes in a similar cylinder shaped speaker that practically mimics the Echo design, and has both a tweeter and a subwoofer and eight microphones for total coverage (where the Echo only has seven).
The crucial difference for buyers is that it comes in at $129.99, a full $50 cheaper than the Echo and just $1 more than the Google Home. That said, for those willing to fork out for a better speaker, the Lenovo Smart Assistant Harman Kardon Edition has an additional 2-inch cavity for clearer treble and deeper bass. Both are available for purchase in May 2017.
Related: Google to invade your (smart) home to show off AI software
UK start-up, Emotech, believes its own take on smart assistants is more ‘proactive’ and ‘personal’ than its competitors, according to chief executive Hongbin Zhuang.
The social assistant, dubbed Olly, is designed to develop a different personality for each user in a household, which it does by learning about a user’s habits and manner of speaking over time.
As per its competitors, Olly plays music and controls other IoT-controlled devices, however it will also offer advice based on what it has learnt – something other smart assistants do not yet do. This could include predicting what music you want to listen to when you wake up, for example, as Olly is able to detect its surroundings and what the user is doing due to in-built sensing algorithms.
Still in prototype form, the device is set to go on sale later this year.
Related: Orbita looks to empower patients with Amazon’s Alexa
U.S. tech firm, Mayfield Robotics, has created something entirely different, but still features in the smart assistant category.
Its latest invention, Kuri, is a 20 inch, 6 kilogram house robot designed to do tasks around the house, such as reading bedtime stories to your children or checking the house while you’re out.
The robot comes kitted out with a camera, microphone, speakers, and touch sensors, but it also has a “laser-based sensor array”, which allows it detect obstacles, faces and to navigate and map out rooms, according to IEEE Spectrum. Supposedly, it will run for a couple of hours before autonomously recharging itself on a floor dock.
Interestingly, this robot will not be part of the latest voice-assisted tech bandwagon. Instead, the robot interacts by making beeping noises, by rotating its head and through a light that changes color on its chest – much like E.T.
A more expensive $699, Kuri is set to go on sale in time for the holidays in 2017.