Lenovo picks Alexa's brain for its new Smart Assistant
Amazon's cloud-based personal assistant, Alexa, usually calls the Echo speaker home, but she's been known to occasionally step into lamps and robots. Now she has another residence in Lenovo's Smart Assistant, a new Echo-like device that picks up voice commands and replies in kind. If better sound quality is your jam, there's a Harman Kardon speaker edition, and the company is also rolling out a wireless Smart Storage device with a capacity of up to 6 TB.
Like Amazon Echo and Google Home, the Lenovo Smart Assistant is essentially a voice-activated speaker. Commands are picked up through an array of eight 360-degree, far-field microphones, and with noise suppression and acoustic echo cancellation, they're reportedly strong enough to hear you giving instructions from as far away as 16 ft (4.9 m).
Those commands can make use of Alexa's usual roster of Skills, including searching the web, playing music, creating or updating lists, setting reminders, and controlling other devices. When it talks back or plays media, it does so through a speaker with 5-W treble and a 10-W woofer, but audiophiles might prefer the deeper bass and clearer sound that the Harman Kardon edition brings thanks to an extra 2-inch sound cavity.
While the Smart Assistant has an 8 GB hard drive built in, Lenovo's Smart Storage device can complement that with an extra 2 TB or 6 TB, within a small squashed-rectangle frame of 4.5 x 4.5 x 7.1 in (11.5 x 11.5 x 18 cm). Designed to be the storage hub of a home or office, the Smart Storage connects via Wi-Fi, Ethernet or USB and can be set to automatically sync with multiple devices. It can even arrange photos by who's in them, thanks to on-board facial recognition software.
The Lenovo Smart Assistant will be available for US$130, in a choice of gray, green and orange, while the Harman Kardon Edition costs an extra $50 and comes in black. The Smart Storage starts at $140, and the whole range, which Lenovo is showing off at CES this week, will be available from May.
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Basically the Echo you use commands where you talk to the Google Home naturally. The Echo will handle some fuzziness but fundamentally they are variations to commands instead of fundamentally understanding what you are saying.
So with the Echo you might do a quick Google search with a lyric to get a song name and then ask the Echo to play. With the Google Home you skip the Google search step.
I am starting to learn a shorter english as the inference is so incredible with the Google Home. So say "hey google play sting gwen bottle on tv". Google figures out that I want to watch a video of Gwen Stefani and Sting singing message in a bottle on my TV. It then turns the TV on, sets the proper input, and the video starts playing.
Our brains inference capabilities allow us to communicate with one another in a compressed manner. Information can be inferred versus being said. This is what Google is doing and for some (many?) things they can do better than a human. Maybe it is because I have an engineering background but the Google Home from a technology standpoint and what Google is doing just blows me away.
The demo that most blows people away is the Google Photos with the Google Home. A bunch of people over for the holiday and someone asks how was your trip? You just say would you like to see a few pics? You just say "hey google show my photos of kenny in Maui". The TV turns itself on, input set, and photos of my son Kenny playing on the beach in Maui displays". Someone asks did you guys snorkel?
I simply ask Google to show photos of Molokini and then photos of us snorkeling at Molokini and unfortunately pics of where I forced the kids to Kayak to Molokini from the hotel. Wind changed, almost died, fantastic Coast Guard picked us up and took us back to the hotel where we were yelled at because suppose to check in once an hour. Just what happens when wife does not join me and the kids on vacation.
Then my oldest said I remember snorkeling there. Then you just say show Tommy snorkeling at Molokini. My wife had scanned and loaded 1000s of photos into Google Photos and to the shock of my oldest son photos both above and underwater display of him at Molokini.
This is simply off the charts incredible from a technology standpoint. Might be a bias for me but simply wow! Basically one shutter click and nothing else and three months later you are in your family room without touching a single thing showing the photos. There is no more friction that can be removed.