Facebook is making its leap into the hardware business with its own line of smart speakers. The social media giant will reportedly launch two new smart speakers – Aloha and Fiona – in mid-2018. Reports about Facebook’s counter to Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod surfaced last year in July. These devices reportedly feature a touchscreen that can be used to display visual information to accompany its responses, as well as play video and conduct video calls.
Aloha and Fiona are reportedly being built by Facebook’s Building 8 hardware lab. Aloha is said to be a more sophisticated model and could be marketed under the official name Portal. It is said to be able to use voice commands and also use facial recognition technology to identify users.
According to a recent study from Juniper Research, smart speakers such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, and the Sonos One will be installed in over 70 million U.S. households by 2022, reaching 55% of all homes. Facebook’s Fiona and Aloha may help fuel consumer adoption even more.
Below is a quick recap of the top smart speakers:
Amazon Alexa: Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon, first used in the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot devices developed by Amazon Lab126. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real-time information, such as news. Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system. Users can extend the Alexa capabilities by installing “skills” (additional functionality developed by third-party vendors, in other settings more commonly called apps).
Google Assistant: Users primarily interact with the Google Assistant through natural voice, through keyboard input is also supported. In the same nature and manner as Google Now, the Assistant is able to search the Internet, schedule events and alarms, adjust hardware settings on the user’s device, and show information from the user’s Google account.
Sonos One: The Sonos One contains a six-microphone array, allowing the use of the virtual assistant Amazon Alexa. In 2018, the smart speaker will also add support for Google Assistant and Apple’s AirPlay 2.
Microsoft Cortana: Cortana can set reminders, recognize natural voice without the requirement for keyboard input, and answer questions using information from the Bing search engine.
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