Smart speakers get smarter

21st January 2019
Smart speakers get smarter

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