The Amazon Echo, a smart speaker designed to be controlled using the human voice, could be struggling to keep up with competition in countries where English is not the primary language due to the device’s lack of support for other languages, according to a new report. On the other hand, smart speakers built with support for non-English-speaking countries could find opportunities in those territories.
For example, Mobvoi, a China-based company that develops voice recognition and natural language processing, announced in May this year that it will launch a Google Assistant-powered speaker later in 2017 called the Tichome Mini. The announcement was made during this year’s Google I/O, where the search giant also named Mobvoi as the official Google Assistant partner. Although no details about its availability and release date were immediately available, it is safe to presume that Mobvoi will first launch the upcoming product at its home turf in China like other Chinese manufacturers often do. Another Amazon Echo rival that also supports the Chinese language is the Xiaomi Mi Bunny, a $29 smart speaker that was unveiled at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The voice-controlled device is powered by Xiaomi’s proprietary smart assistant, and it is also designed to send and receive messages through WeChat as well as read from over 10,000 books for kids.
Additionally, the Amazon Echo may face tough challenges from Facebook and Samsung, both of which are reportedly working on their own smart speakers, but instead of relying on voice recognition capabilities, Facebook’s smart speaker will supposedly use a touchscreen to allow users to control the device. According to a recent report from Taiwan, the device will be manufactured by Pegatron Technologies, which reportedly already kicked off pilot production of the home product in China. Meanwhile, Samsung’s smart speaker will reportedly be powered by its artificial intelligence (AI) assistant Bixby, which is included in the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus. Given the large user base of Facebook and Samsung, it would not be hard for those companies to find customers for their respective smart speakers once they announce the devices some time in the near future, though it is unclear whether or not those products will also include support for non-English languages.