Baidu, the Chinese internet search giant is making a serious push into smart speakers by launching the Raven H, a home speaker with a sleek futuristic design. In its maiden push into the market for smart homes, the company introduced the home speaker and a couple of robots.
Touted as part of the Raven Series, the products were unveiled during the Baidu World conference in Beijing. According to Jesse Lyu, the founder of Raven Tech, each product in the new Raven series is integrated with Baidu’s latest artificial intelligence technologies. These include computer vision, facial recognition and voice activation. The company’s Apollo autonomous driving technology is used in its robots.
Christened the Raven H, the smart speaker is shaped like a stack of square blocks with a controller that can be detached from it. When detached, the controller becomes a voice-activated remote that can then be used to control all Raven-compatible devices in the home. The controller is touch-sensitive and has a light-emitting diode (LED) display.
The Raven H, which was designed by Raven Tech and Teenage Engineering, will cost $256 (1,699 yuan) and will be ready for shipping in December. Raven Tech is a start-up that was acquired by Baidu in February and Teenage Engineering is a Swedish consumer electronics manufacturer. After that acquisition Lyu, Raven Tech’s founder, became general manager for Baidu’s intelligent hardware unit.
The Raven Series products are powered by DuerOS, an artificial intelligence technology that is voice activated. The technology is comparable to Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Assistant.
In the Raven H, DuerOS enables the speaker to perform tasks like playing music, hailing a taxi or searching for information using voice commands. In Raven R, a multi-jointed robotic arm, the technology enables the arm to move in reaction to voice commands. In Raven Q, another robot undergoing development, DuerOS will initiate voice recognition, computer vision, simultaneous localization and mapping.
The Raven H is entering a market that’s so competitive and largely dominated by Amazon. Lyu, however remains optimistic saying that the inspiration for the smart speaker is to enhance man and machine communication and make it seamless within the home or office where users can remain mobile while connected to the smart speaker and still engage their other personal space. He added that the speakers and robots may be a small step in the history of technology but will transform people’s lives and afford them experiences that are the stuff of fantasy and sci-fi movies.
The company did not provide information on the robots’ prices or when they will be available to the public.