Published: Sat, September 02, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Have Amazon, Google, Apple and Sony Destroyed the Smart Speaker Market?

Have Amazon, Google, Apple and Sony Destroyed the Smart Speaker Market?

Get ready - the robots are taking over, well, the voice assistants certainly are - and we're seeing more and more products feature the wonderful smarts of online voice assistants. The speakers are equipped with voice recognition features which enable the device to respond to spoken commands.

At IFA 2017, Europe's major consumer technology show, Sony, JBL and Harman Kardon released smart speakers. We revealed that the Google Home slumped to Don't Buy status in our wireless speaker test.

The speaker itself is a squat cylinder with a perforated grill, and has an LED display on the front to tell the time, and animates to show you when the Assistant is listening or processing. That's about $70 more than the Google Home so it will be down to personal preference if the better audio quality is worth the added cost. The Google Assistant speaker - powered Sony LF-S50G also lets users perform basic features like setting alarms, calendar events, check traffic information and more.

Unlike the Google Home, Sony's speaker would be able to recognise gesture controls to play music, skip tracks, or adjust the volume. With Amazon Echo, you get access to tens of thousands of "skills", the mini-apps that start a game of Jeopardy or help you mix a cocktail. I tried drawing a clockwise ring in the air above the speaker, but it only picked up my movement after my fifth attempt.

Like the Google Home, users can say the "OK, Google" phrase to activate the assistant.

Sony and Panasonic will soon join the crowd of companies offering voice-activated "smart" speakers for the home equipped with artificial intelligence, and both Japanese heavyweights plan to use Google's virtual personal assistant in their products. Besides Amazon and Google, whose smart speakers make up most of the models currently sold, later this year we will see new versions of the product launched from Microsoft, Apple, Samsung and now Sony.

The forthcoming keen speaker, LF-S50G, can be utilized to control brilliant home gadgets like lights.

It can pair over Bluetooth, NFC and or Wi-Fi, and supports multi-room audio controls. Part of that may be due to Sony's decision to deploy the Google Assistant technology on their device rather than trying to develop their own system.

Other products that have been launched by JBL include a new Bar series of four soundbars meant for home theatre experience at home in a price range of Euro 179 to Euro 749.

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