Baidu, a multibillion-dollar Chinese internet giant, has unveiled two new robots and a smart speaker to rival the Amazon Echo.
The three “Raven” products — unveiled at the Beijing company’s Baidu World conference on Wednesday — are all powered by Baidu’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
The Baidu smart speaker, known as Raven H, is quite unusual in that it has a detachable LED touch controller that can be used independently to control other Raven devices around the home. It will go on sale in December at 1,699 Yuan ($256, £194).
The device has been developed by a company called Raven Tech, which was acquired by Baidu in February, and Swedish consumer electronics manufacturer Teenage Engineering.
Just like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and the Apple HomePod, it allows people to use their voice to search for information, play music, hail a taxi, and get the weather, among other things.
The smart speaker market is booming but Amazon is the one at the head of the pack, holding 68% of the market share. Roughly 68% of the 24 million smart speakers expected to be sold this year will use Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant, which sits inside Echo devices and products.
Cheng (Jesse) Lyu, the founder of Raven Tech and now the general manager of Baidu’s Intelligent Hardware Unit, said in a statement: “Humans and machines have been interacting with one another for years, but raven H aims to create a world in which this interaction is seamless.
“The system, equipped with Baidu’s superior voice technology, DuerOS, provides users with an unprecedented level of understanding from a smart device. Its adjustable design lets its user move through their home or workspace while remaining connected to both the raven H system and their personal world.”
Raven R is an automated robot with emotional intelligence, according to Baidu. The company said it has six human-like “joints” that allow it to move in response to a human command and display “emotions” that enhance the user experience.
Then there’s Raven Q, which is another home robot but this one is still at the concept stage. Baidu said it will eventually integrate multiple technologies including “simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM),” computer vision, and natural language processing into Raven Q.
It’s unclear when Raven R and Raven Q will go on sale and how much they will cost.
“Each product in our new Raven series is integrated with Baidu’s latest AI technologies, including facial recognition, computer vision, and even our Apollo autonomous driving technology,” said Lyu. “These smart speakers and AI home robots may sound like a small step in the history of technology – but they will help people’s everyday lives and bring them an experience once only seen in sci-fi movies.”