Bangalore, January 21 2019: During 2018, we were introduced to the two best-known smart speaker brands which were for most of us, the first practical application of virtual voice assistants: Google Home with Assistant and Amazon Echo with Alexa. As first mover, Echo has taken the biggest chunk of the smart speaker business, though its search engine, Microsoft's Bing, is not as comprehensive as Google's. Both Google Home and Echo come with smaller, more affordable options -- Home Mini and Echo Dot, identically priced at Rs 4499. And that remained the entry price in India to have a home device you could ask anything. Increasingly, up-market housing comes pre-installed with a smart voice assistant to control your music collection, lights, fans, air conditioning, microwave or washing machine.
As we read this,an advertisement offers in Thane, near Mumbai, the "first ever voice -controlled smart home" from the Ashar real estate group.
And Milagrow, makers of the first home cleaning robot in India, are offering Wheeme IoT Alexa Red, "the world's first robotic body massager" powered by Alexa, for Rs 13,990. One can see why the ability to talk and control a robot crawling all over your bare back, as you lie supine, makes sense.
Last week, Amazon launched another device in its Alexa-powered Echo family that has a clever proposition to those who already own a music or speaker system and don't want to blow nearly Rs 5000, just so they can speak it. Like the Godfather, the new Echo Input makes an 'offer you can't refuse' -- well almost. The offer is: We'll help you add Alexa Voice to any existing speaker.
The device is a small disk, just 3 inches in diameter and a half inch tall with its own power cord. You can connect it to your existing speaker either by plugging into the 3.5 inch audio port or wirelessly via Bluetooth -- and syncing with the latest edition of the Alexa mobile app. That's it. Your old speaker is now a smart speaker and you can get started, voicing your music requests or asking her anything from the weather to the cricket score or the day's news headlines. Echo Input costs Rs 2999 and can be bought -- where else -- on Amazon. I'm guessing, it will rope in enough buyers who want to enjoy the thrill to chatting fruitfully to the newest member of their home: a well informed, helpful lady named Alexa.
For our companion story on Smart Assistant trends see this