What do Amazon, Google, Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, and Huawei all have in common? They’re working on smart speakers with built-in voice assistants. And soon Motorola might join the fray.
According to AndroidPure, the Chicago-based Lenovo subsidiary is prepping an AI-powered home speaker — the “Moto AI Assistant” — for launch in China.
The device in question, which looks sort of like a mix between Amazon’s Echo Plus and recently leaked pictures of the purported third-generation Echo Dot, won’t tap Alexa, the Google Assistant, or Microsoft’s Cortana for voice services. Instead, it’ll reportedly run some sort of Baidu software — likely Baidu’s DuerOS, a suite of software developer kits (SDKs), APIs, and turnkey solutions for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
Judging by the marketing materials AndroidPure managed to get its hands on, the 90mm, 280-gram speaker will boast Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity, support for audio streaming via DLNA, an ARM Cortex A53 processor clocked at 1.75GHz, and a volume range of 80Hz-14kHz. Unsurprisingly, it’ll be able to answer basic questions like “What’s today’s weather?” and “Set a timer for 5 minutes,” plus provide news, weather, and stock updates on demand and control appliances from Haier, BroadLink, Lifesmart, and more. Like Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids Edition, it’ll reportedly have a “child mode” that will kick in automatically when it detects that a tot’s asking a question, and serve up a library of kid-friendly audiobooks and music.
If the rumors turn out to be true, the new speaker would be something of a coup for Baidu. The Beijing company announced in August that DuerOS had reached an install base of 100 million devices, up from 50 million just six months ago. And it said that more than 200 partners have and 16,000 developers were actively contributing to the platform, including heavyweights like Huawei, Vivo, Oppo, Daimler, BMW, Ford, Hyundai, and Kia.
It’d be an uphill climb for Motorola, though, which would face stiff competition from incumbents. Google shipped 5.4 million smart speakers in Q2 2018 alone, ahead of Amazon’s 4.1 million. In China, Alibaba and Xiaomi dominate the space, with the former holding steady at 50 percent market share.
Still, there might be room in the market for another speaker. The number of AI-equipped home speakers in use is expected to hit 100 million by the end of 2018 (up from under 50 million at the end of 2017), according to some analysts. By 2020, that number could more than double to 225, and by 2024, the market could be worth as much as $30 billion, Global Market Insights reports.