January 3, 2017 - 16:25 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Lenovo, the world’s largest PC maker, is getting into "smart" speakers. The company just unveiled the Lenovo Smart Assistant, a tall, tubular speaker that has Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa built in. Lenovo says it worked directly with Amazon to integrate Amazon’s Alexa Voice Services, which are expected to show up in a wide variety of products at this year’s CES, The Verge said.
At first glance the Lenovo Smart Assistant looks like Amazon’s own Echo speaker (unlike the Google Home, for example, which looks more like an air freshener). And the Smart Assistant will work pretty much the same way as the Echo: you’ll be able to use your voice to ask Alexa for the news, play music, set timers, and so on. But there are a few notable differences between Amazon’s own speaker and Lenovo’s variant.
For one, the color schemes are different, with Lenovo offering the Smart Assistant in light green, gray, or orange fabric. The microphone portion of the speaker is designer differently, too, jutting out from the top of it rather than lying flat like the Echo; Lenovo says this is for ventilation, to cool down the Intel Atom processor inside. Also, this is minor, but Lenovo’s Smart Assistant has eight far-field microphones, compared with the Echo’s seven.
But Lenovo is also offering a Harman Kardon edition of its Smart Assistant speaker, addressing one of the biggest knocks on the Echo speaker and the Google Home: while they’re nifty voice-control devices, they’re not actually great ... speakers. The Harmon Kardon edition is more expensive, but for people looking for a more premium sound, that might be the way to go.
One unclear aspect of Lenovo’s Smart Assistant is exactly how its compatible software will work. Amazon’s Echo connects with Amazon’s own Alexa app, which is primarily a setup and manager app for the speaker, but also keeps a log of everything you ask Alexa for. Lenovo says that Smart Assistant users will have to set up the speaker using Lenovo’s app for iOS and Android, but couldn’t answer whether queries made through the speaker will be logged in Lenovo’s app.
The Smart Assistant speakers will start shipping in May of this year. The regular version costs $130, less than the $180 price of Amazon’s Echo speaker and the same price as Google’s Home speaker, which uses Google’s own voice assistant, not Alexa. The Harman Kardon speaker will cost $180.
In addition to the "smart" speaker, Lenovo is also shipping a six-terabyte networked storage drive, and a compatible app that uses facial recognition tech for automatic photo-file sorting. The Smart Storage device also ships in May, and will cost $140.