2016 was supposed to be the year of voice but it looks like 2017 is too.
Since Amazon launched the Amazon Echo speaker, complete with its own artificial intelligence (AI) assistant named Alexa back in 2014, other tech companies have been gearing up to make their own devices.
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Three years on, Alexa is now complete with over 10,000 skills and the likes of Google, Apple, and according to the rumours, Samsung jumping onto the bandwagon too.
Here’s what you need to know about the rival smart speakers.
Samsung’s Bixby speaker
Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Samsung was working on a smart speaker device that will incorporate Bixby, its own AI assistant, which will compete with the Echo.
At the launch event for the tech giant’s new Galaxy Note 8 yesterday, Samsung’s mobile chief Dj Koh told CNBC that we will be seeing a Bixby smart speaker.
“Maybe soon we will announce it. I am already working on it. As I mentioned I wanted to provide a fruitful user experience at home with Samsung devices and I want to be moving quite heavily on it.”
However, there have been a few hiccups with Bixby already; it was notably missing from the launch of the Galaxy S8 smartphone earlier this year, with this feature only being made available worldwide this week to coincide with the Note 8 launch.
The South Korean giant will have to iron the issues out before it attempts to launch a new speaker worldwide.
There’s been no word on price details yet too.
The Echo is the home of Alexa and one of the first smart speakers to hit the mainstream.
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Last year it expanded its range to include the UK and Germany.
Not compete with just being a speaker, Amazon unveiled the Echo Show, which has a tablet-like screen to make it easier to shop on Amazon, as well as call your family and friends.
The Echo reigns supreme as the most popular smart speaker at the moment.
According to research by eMarketer, Amazon controls 70 percent of the voice-enabled speaker device market.
Amazon Echo is available now in the US, UK and Germany for $179 (£149) but the Echo Show is only currently available in the US for $230.
Announced last year, the Google Home is a more stylish home speaker compared to the Echo.
As well, it is backed up by Google’s artificial intelligence which is arguably more progressed than Amazon’s is, due to the search giant’s general dominance in tech and the internet.
This week, it announced it was partnering with US retail giant Walmart in order to launch voice-activated grocery shopping. By early next year, shoppers will be able to buy groceries using the Google Home and opt for in-store pick up of their orders.
Google Home is available in the US and UK for $129 (£129).
Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook announced the HomePod at the company’s developer conference earlier this year.
Here, the focus is on the speaker aspect and making it a decent music device, instead of solely focusing on the AI capability, which is powered by Apple’s Siri.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Cook said:
The thing that has arguably not gotten a great level of focus is music in the home. So we decided we would combine great sound and an intelligent speaker.
It’s also interesting that Apple hasn’t yet released its own branded speakers, particularly after it released the iPod but that must be why it bought Beats instead.
Apple HomePod is not available yet, but it will be for sale for $349.
Alibaba’s Tmall Genie
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has launched its own voice-controlled smart speaker, named Tmall Genie.
For the time being it will be sold in China and only be able to understand commands in Mandarin.
It’s low price of $73.42 makes it the cheapest entry into the market and should prove fairly popular.
Tmall Genie will be on sale from 8 August.
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