If you haven’t already invested in one of the many smart home speakers on the market, this summer you’ll have even more options, as Facebook plans to unveil its own version of voice-enabled smart home speakers, called Fiona and Aloha. Unlike most of the smart home speakers available today, like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod, Fiona and Aloha will each feature a built-in 15-inch touchscreen. As an extra perk, Aloha will also boast facial recognition technology, which will allow users to access Facebook (and likely launch other tasks) when the smart speaker’s camera lens recognizes them.
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Both Facebook smart speaker models will also access and play music via voice commands, thanks to Facebook’s licensing contracts with Sony and Universal Music.
Fiona and Aloha will join the already saturated smart home speaker market sometime in July. According to A recent study from Juniper Research, smart speakers such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, and the Sonos One will be installed in over 70 million U.S. households by 2022, reaching 55% of all homes. Facebook’s Fiona and Aloha may help fuel consumer adoption even more.
With a growing number of smart home speakers, manufacturers will continue to look for ways to differentiate themselves. For example, Harman Kardon leverages its strong background in audio reproduction with the development of a smart speaker, Invoke, that delivers an exceptional music listening experience. Apple, meanwhile, with its well-established ecosystem of smart home products, positions its HomePod smart speaker as a home control interface.
Here is a look at some of the top smart speaker offerings:
Apple Siri (HomePod): This smart speaker uses Siri as its voice control platform, which speaks exclusively to Apple’s own ecosystem of HomeKit-enabled smart home products.
Amazon Alexa: Boasting various form factors and features (the Echo Show and Echo Spot, for instance, incorporate built in screen for video calls and displaying other information), the selection of Amazon listening devices gives consumers the ability to integrate a variety of products into the home—FireTV in the media room, Echo Show in the kitchen, and Dots in the bedrooms, for example.
Amazon designed Alexa to be a very “open” solution, meaning anyone can use Alexa Skills to integrate the technology into a product. This has opened the floodgates for the development of numerous Alexa-compatible products, including those from some of the biggest names in the smart home business: Nest, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, and others.
Google Assistant: This voice assistant platform followed on the footsteps of Amazon Alexa. Its selection of smart speaker is continually growing, putting Google in close competition with Amazon. Recently, Google announced a donut-shape voice-enabled speaker called the Mini, and a larger, more musically inclined voice-enabled speaker called the Max.
The Google Home Mini wins the beauty prize, with its smooth, curved exterior encased in fabric of three different colors: Chalk, Charcoal and Coral. But if high-fidelity is important, that’s the forte of the Google Home Max. Packed inside this stereo speaker are two 4.5-inch woofers and a couple of tweeters. Google says it plays loud—20 times more powerful than the original Google Home.
According to Google, you can control more than 1,000 smart products by using Google Home devices, and its products are but it’s noted as being highly reliable and accurate at interpreting voice commands.
Sonos: Everyone loves Sonos for its ability to stream music throughout the house. Now there’s another reason to swoon over this super-easy, super versatile, whole-house wireless music system: its ability to function as a voice-enabled smart speaker. The company recently announced Sonos One, the company’s first wireless speaker with voice control built-in.
Microsoft Cortana: Just when you thought Amazon and Google had saturated the smart speaker market with their ever-expanding portfolios of voice assistant gadgets, along comes Harman Kardon with yet another option. As a relative late bloomer in the smart speaker market, Harman Kardon has chosen the Microsoft Cortana voice assistant as its platform, embedding it in its Invoke speaker.
The timing, however, seems perfect, as Microsoft only recently announced its “Connected Home” section available on through the Cortana Notebook menu on some Windows 10 PCs. Connected Home lets you use your Windows 10 PC to relay voice commands to smart home devices from Wink, Insteon, Nest, SmartThings and Philips (Hue).