Facebook has filed for a new patent, and this time it's for the ornamental design of a speaker device that very much appears to be a smart speaker of some sort. Looking kind of like a square Amazon Echo with some kind of slot or button up front, rather than up top as seen on most smart speakers, Facebook's design features an all-around grill that will allow for 3D audio. Up top, we see a flat panel with some dotted lines that could simply be design leftovers, or may end up representing some feature on the final unit, should one ever come. The back features a USB Type-C plug, which will presumably power the unit and possibly allow it to link to other devices via a USB connection.
Background: This new device runs counter to Facebook's previous efforts in the smart speaker arena, all of which include a screen. Notably, the device appears to be a direct competitor to the Amazon Echo, which is a bit strange, given the fact that Facebook's existing smart speaker options all run Amazon's own Alexa AI. It's possible that Facebook may have its own AI that it's planning to roll out here, or it could simply be looking to put out its own spin on the simple smart speaker with Alexa inside to serve as an alternative to the Echo. One of the most interesting things about this new speaker design is the USB Type-C port, a detail that's absent in many smart speakers on the market and opens up a number of possibilities. Data sync of some sort with smartphones, tablets, PCs, and other devices is one obvious answer, along with control integration. That detail could, of course, simply be in place to allow users the convenience of having an easily replaceable power cord for their smart speaker that can be shared with their phone, or vice versa, in a pinch.
Impact: The potential impact of this move all depends on one thing; what's inside this speaker. Namely, which AI assistant is living inside it, and how well it handles Facebook integration. While the company got rid of its previous M assistant around this time last year, a new one, called Aloha, is supposedly in the works. The images in this patent may well be showing off Aloha's first home. The AI has been in development since August at the very latest, and likely quite a bit longer. Given its current offerings in the smart speaker space, there is seemingly no real reason for Facebook to try to cannibalize Amazon's Echo sales, so this unit will almost certainly have something to differentiate it from Amazon's effort. It may be cheaper than the Echo, it may have different audio chops on the inside that position it above or below the Echo, or, as mentioned before, something could be going on with that USB Type-C port. This speaker being the dawn of Facebook's bid to conquer the AI smart assistant space with Aloha is the most exciting possibility by far, but since this is just a patent, it's still anybody's guess as to if and when such a thing may happen.