Mobvoi Enters The Smart Speaker Sector, And This Is What Is Smartest Chinese Smart Speaker Tichome Looks Like

摘要: “We might have the best smart speaker in the Chinese market,” Mobvoi’s founder Li Zhifei said when talking about Mobvoi’s newest product, a smart speaker named Tichome, at the launch conference, showing great confidence in this very product.

(Chinese Version)

Tichome

Tichome

 “We might have the best smart speaker in the Chinese market,” Mobvoi’s founder Li Zhifei said when talking about Mobvoi’s newest product, a smart speaker named Tichome, at the launch conference, showing great confidence in this very product.

It’s widely known that smart speakers have become rather a test field for AI application, which is an integration of both the hardware and software. We have already witnessed the recent success of Amazon’s Echo, as well as the potential in this particular sector. And it’s natural for Internet giants to seize the opportunity and grow dominant in this AI field. Mobvoi’s decision to launch this smart speaker at this point seems to be an act of following the trend. However, it’s quite apparent that Li Zhifei believes his product has something special and competitive to offer as he claimed Tichome to be the best smart speaker in the Chinese market.

Waiting for the opportunity

At the launch conference, Li Zhifei explained that they were not following the trend, but rather waiting for an opportunity. “For a startup company, it’s very hard to establish a new series of products,” he said. “After the success of Amazon’s Echo, smart speakers have become a new trend. We have already started some projects in this field. Smart speakers are a great integration of both hardware and software.”

As a matter of fact, people who have read about comments on smart speakers from SONOS might remember Internet giants’ moves in this particular sector. The market is still in need of further exploration and therefore a killer weapon would be launched, said Li Zhifei. The incentive behind this is simple, that is to dominate a data flow getter for the next IoT platform.

To compete with the Internet giants, Mobvoi has spent great efforts in refining the appearance, sound quality, service and smart control of this smart speaker. In August last year they started to undergo early market investigation and survey, and eventually set up a project in December. It took four months to test out the product and further improve it. Compared with some companies that could bring about the products in four months, Mobvoi was quite slow. But still, the whole product development process is still faster than Echo.

Undoubtedly, consumers still expect traditional features like the appearance and sound quality from a smart speaker, which are still fundamental. According to the released information, the speaker adopts wool blend and wood for its external finishing and base. Another wow-getter design is the breathing light on the top of the speaker that’s composed of 36 LED lights that beam along the music. The complex formation enables the speaker to produce balanced light.

In addition, the speaker has a tune trope of over 500cc, as well as a three-inch low frequency speaker unit and a one-inch high frequency speaker unit. The total fixed power is 50W. At the launch conference, they demonstrated how a batch of these speakers could simulate a symphony performance. It’s difficult to describe what the performance was like in terms of the music quality, but the gleaming LED lights were indeed incredible enough to leave an impression.

This is probably the smartest speaker in the Chinese market

So just how smart a speaker should be to be regarded as smart? Mobvoi has established a set of standards for itself: Far, fast, accurate, broad, and deep.

To put it into perspective, the smart speaker should be still responsive in a rather far distance. And it should be quick on processing orders and able to understand the orders accurately. In addition, the speaker should be able to work in broad use scenes and understand deep conversation.

The first four standards are very easy to understand. The last standard, which is broad, means the speaker should be able to function well in different scenarios, such as a noisy living room for instance. It should be even able to identify different users and set reminders for the users. Mobvoi’s smart speaker has a voice identification function, enabling the device to identify different users through their voice. That said, different users can set their very own reminders. In this case, when different users ask the speak questions like “what plans do I have today,” the speak will provide the correct answers. Meanwhile, the speaker also connects with Mobvoi’s smartwatch Ticwatch and the smart rearview mirror.  

Mobvoi’s five standards for smart speakers

To demonstrate the connection function, Mobvoi teamed up with CR Land and Haier U+ to build a sample set of life style powered by smart appliances. Users can set up different use scenes for the speaker. For instance, users can set up a scene for “just come back home” or “resting”. The user only has to speak out the keyword after returning home, for example “I am home”, then a series of devices like lights, AC, and the television etc. would be turned on. When the user set a destination for going out, the speaker would push the route planning to the smart rearview mirror and smartphone.

The most impressive feature Mobvoi had demonstrated was the speaker’s ability to have deep conversation with the user. For instance, you can ask questions like: How old is Wang Fei? Then following that, you can ask how many kids Wang Fei has, who is her current husband, and how many kids her ex-husband has etc. The capability of answering these questions correctly showcased Tichome’s ability to understand the relationship between people. If you asked Siri similar questions, it might not be able to remember the person you have previously inquire on before, let alone the relationship between different people.

So is it the smart life already here?

Undeniably, Mobovi’s Tichome is indeed impressive and excels in many aspects. It has great appearance and sound quality, as well as smart functions that allow us to set simple task reminders and inquire on the weather and clothes recommendation et. “The more details you ask, the more detailed the answers would be,” said Mobvoi’s product director. In addition to that, the speaker can identify different users and provide responses accordingly.

The sample set of smart appliances for smart life style did give us a glimpse of the future of smart home. However, the issue here is that the smart speaker is merely a controller. To build up a smart home, more relevant smart appliances are required. Meanwhile, these smart hardware and devices must be connected to the controller, which is the speaker.

As for content and O2O services, such as takeout service and cab-hailing service etc., they are not really important. These Internet services all require hardware as an entry point. Journalists believe that they wouldn’t refuse any opportunities for hardware implementation. Compared with that, it’s more important to think about how to get more smart hardware connected to the platform.

At present, there isn’t any standard platform or interface in the market. Most ordinary consumers have appliances that aren’t smart in their house. The key issue here is to get these appliances connected to the platform. TMTPost noticed that Mobvoi’s partners include Internet giants like Tencent, traditional enterprises like Haier, and a smart IR remote control maker BroadLink. BroadLink is a company that focuses on converting non-smart appliances into smart appliances.

At present, Mobvoi’s Tichome has entered Taobao’s crowdfunding platform, priced at ¥649. It’s most certain that another competitive player has emerged in the smart speaker market. However, it remains unknown when all sorts of the appliances we have back home will be eventually connected to each other through a control platform. This is the matter that journalists want to find out.

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The article is published with authorization from the author @Tang Zhixiao, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]

Translated by Garrett Lee (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.

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