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May 10, 2017

Harmon Kardon Announces Details of Device to Compete with Amazon’s Echo

Harmon’s new Invoke audio device will work with Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant.

The runaway success of Amazon’s Alexa - the digital personal assistant bundled with the Amazon Echo smart speaker – demonstrates that consumers are rapidly becoming accustomed to talking to devices to automate their lives and run their homes. Since Amazon allows third parties to integrate Alexa into the products they manufacture – everything from appliances to automobiles - consumers are using Alexa to manage home lighting, thermostats, locks, security alarms and more. Ford, for example, is building the digital assistant into its new cars so that Alexa will be able to answer such questions as “How much fuel remains?” or “Where the heck did I park the car?”

Certainly, Amazon’s success is not lost on its high-tech competitors, each of whom seeks points of difference and superiority. Google Home, for instance, incorporates Google Assistant, which leverages the company’s industry-leading internet search capability plus other Google services, including Google Calendar, Google Contacts and Gmail.

Meanwhile, it’s reported that Apple is working on its own voice-based, smart home device that will leverage its wildly popular AI personal assistant, Siri, and allow users to stream Apple Music content, among other things. According to Bloomberg, Apple will attempt to one-up Amazon’s Echo by using advanced microphones and speakers, but based on the Invoke’s specifications released by Harmon on Monday, that could prove to be a tall order.

While the Invoke device closely resembles the Amazon Echo in appearance, Harmon will leverage its expertise in advanced acoustics. Each Invoke will feature six individual speakers - three woofers (designed to reproduce sounds of low frequency) and three tweeters (for high-frequency sounds) – to deliver 360-degree sound. Moreover, each Invoke will use a seven-microphone array plus noise-cancellation technology in order to provide superior recognition of the voice commands sent to it.

Microsoft’s contribution to the partnership will be its Cortana software, which can be used to manage a user’s calendar, for instance, or to conduct internet searches via Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Bing is already used by almost 150 million users of PCs and mobile devices.

This internet technology news summary is provided by Butcher Block Co. BBC is an online-only store whose focus is furniture, equipment and accessories for residential and commercial kitchens. The company’s specialty is wood countertops and kitchen carts, islands and tables.

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