Smart speaker is a device equipped with a voice assistant aimed to help you with everyday tasks and do some basic actions like set an alarm or order a takeaway. It looks like your common everyday speaker you use to listen to music, but it is much more mighty and useful.
Smart speaker idea started with it being able to play music from various devices with user’s media playback or online services, however now it is an efficient digital assistant bordering with artificial intelligence. You can connect the speaker with any smart home elements if available and enjoy your technologically utopian life.
You can use your smart speaker for a couple of reasons, being actually listening to music, as a smart assistant and as a home automation hub. Before creating or buying one, think about what you will be using it for, and pick the one with the best suitable characteristics.
Now let’s go through the flagship smart speakers by big companies to get the idea what those are and what they should be.
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Echo by Amazon is a trailblazer of smart speakers. It became available in the US in June 2015, but there’s a word that the work started back in 2010. Let’s go through the main features:
- Intelligent voice assistant named Alexa, which is a wake word as well (but you can change it if you want)
- Has got 7 microphones and beamforming feature to recognize your voice even from across the room and if the music is playing
- Provides multidirectional 360° sound that fills the whole room
- Creates to-do lists, informs you on the news, weather forecast, traffic, reminds you of Calendar events
- Allows listening to music from different sources including Apple Music, Google Play, iHeart Radio, Pandora, Spotify etc., and integrates with various third-party apps like Audible and Uber
- Connects to any Smart Home devices if available
Amazon opened a niche of smart speakers to the technology world with their first generation Amazon Echo, and now devices include Echo Dot, Echo Look, Echo Plus and others.
Moreover, shortly after the release it’s been stated by CNET that Echo ‘may be the closest thing we’ll have to a Star Trek computer at home’.
Google Home is Google’s attempt on the smart speaker. Available in November 2016 soon after the Amazon Echo, it still grasped attention. Some of the many features are:
- Google Assistant - an improved conversational version of Google Now, awaken by saying ‘OK Google’
- A great advantage over the contestors being the Google Search
- Able to connect to your Google account
- Can connect to video and photo as well as services
- It has only got 2 microphones, but you can still talk to the speaker while music is playing and it will hear you
- Integrates with apps like Spotify, YouTube and even Netflix
- Gives basic info on weather, news (from the chosen news source), can remind you of your schedule
- The whole upper panel is touchable, so you can manipulate the playback by tapping or swiping
Google Home isn’t perfect. It is still unable to alter your schedule for the day or add any events to the calendar which is quite an influential drawback, because it must be the core function of the assistant. On top of that, the quality of the playback itself cedes a bit to the contestants.
However, the Google search engine and the Assistant capable of two-sided conversation are a huge win, not mentioning the sleek looks.
After some time of severe work, Apple finally presented their own smart speaker on WWDC 2017. Siri gets a chance to have her abilities enhanced by occupying yet one more smart device.
Claiming to ‘Reinvent music for home’ Apple’s take on smart speaker is supposed to be both much better sounding and smarter than their competitors’ with a powerful actual sound system and an A8 chip (the same one as in the iPhone 6). Take a look on its core features:
- 7 tweeters and a powerful woofer providing you with an ‘incredible sound’
- spatial awareness enabling the device to scan the environment and produce sound most efficiently
- 6 microphones able to recognize your commands even if the speaker plays loud music
- Siri (my personal best friend) is implemented allowing you to give commands and request information
- Wi-Fi connected
- Connected to all your Apple Homekit devices if available
Despite all the good stuff, there are still some drawbacks. While both Amazon and Google allow you listening to music from various sources, Apple restricts users to Apple Music only, and supporting any third party applications is not expected in the near future.
Anyway, it’s not out yet when we are writing this article for you, so there is only so much we can tell. Apple HomePod is going to be available in December in the USA, UK and Australia.
How to Create a Smart Speaker
With a little time, effort and imagination one can build their own smart speaker.
You will need an iOS or Android device with Siri or Assistant on it correspondingly (or download an Alexa app on your iOS device to get an Echo replica) and some kind of speaker to connect it to. The best thing is customizability. You choose the base (being the phone of your choice), the speaker, the looks etc.
However, there are some common points in this matter. Here we are listing the crucial features that make smart speaker a smart speaker:
- Text to speech system
- Wi-Fi receiver
- Built-in computer
- Speakers and microphones
Smart speakers introduce themselves into the industry quite quickly and they are still relatively new and exciting for the customer.
Do you have a question?
Apart from playing music and telling you a forecast, smart speaker can actually save your life. You might have heard about an incident where smart speaker calling the police saved a woman’s and her little daughter’s lives from an aggressive male when a domestic argument went out of control. Of course such situation is completely new and the authorities are rather sceptical about that.
Not to end on a heavy note, we hope you have enjoyed this article and we hope you found all the answers you needed about smart speakers.
If you have any additional questions or want to start cooperation, feel free to contact us. Thunderrise Dev Team is heads-up and at your service.