LG's next-generation display-equipped smart speaker may bear some resemblance to Facebook's Portal Plus device that debuted late last year with creepiness cranked up to 11, though it could also make the market segment more universal and accessible, based on a design patent recently spotted by Android Headlines.
There aren't many details given alongside the patent but the design that's shown highlights a cylinder shape that narrows toward the top, giving it a cone-like design. A slot is depicted on the front and back that houses a shelf on one side, seen propping up a distinctly LG-style phone in one image.
Just above the shelf is a circular cutout that looks like it houses a camera, controls not dissimilar to LG's precious tube-shaped smart speaker — the LG XBOOM AI ThinQ WK7 — adorn the top surface. The slot at the back side sits slightly lower than the shelf and houses ports. Those are detailed since they aren't covered in the design patent but there appear to be two ports for USB Type-C plugs and 3.5mm jacks.
Making display-enabled smart speakers more accessible
At first glance, the camera cutout may be the most obvious way the new design resembles Facebook's Portal Plus speaker but there could be a lot more to this design than meets the eye. LG's decision to include a shelf for a smartphone could mean that it functions more closely to a smart home hub such as LG XBOOM AI ThinQ WK9.
The attached smartphone could obviously be implemented for use similar to Facebooks device, for video calls and chats but it seems obvious that the shelf won't move to follow users around the room. Facebook's speaker can do that. It wouldn't be an impossible leap for the camera portion of LG's design to enable something similar but it hasn't explicitly claimed that in its patent.
A simpler explanation may be that LG wants to provide users with the speaker portion of a display-enabled smart home hub. Consumers would provide the display portion in the form of a connected smartphone. That could, for example, be enabled with a designated application or a specially arranged integration with Google's current ecosystem and the Google Home app. Conversely, it could be driven by an iteration of LG's own ThinQ-branded AI.
In either case, that would make AI- and display-enabled smart speakers much more accessible since the company wouldn't need to charge a higher cost due to the inclusion of a touchscreen. A design following those principles could also make the device more individual for a household since each swapping out the smartphone in use could act as a catalyst for swapping users, accounts, and preferences.
The next smart speaker released by LG may not be as crazy as the lampshade design reported by Android Headlines early in January but it could be just as revolutionary. LG has indicated at various global events that it believes AI and associated technology need to be more openly standardized, mirroring sentiments of other major participants in the space. Opening things up in the display-ready smart home hub segment of the market with a device that is open for any smartphone user and relatively inexpensive would be a great start toward reaching the company's goal.