The voice assistant speaker with display market has had little competition to date. In the U.S., there is Amazon Echo Show. Japan has Sony Xperia. Baidu offers Little Fish in China. There have been rumors about Google Home Quartz and more recent reporting on Facebook Portal will enter the U.S. market in 2018, but no prototypes have been shown.
That has changed. At CES, I had the chance to see a canned demo of the LG ThinQ View WK9. This borrows the audio capabilities of the LG ThinQ WK7 smart speaker and adds a screen. An LG representative told me to expect the WK7 smart speaker to start shipping in April and the WK9 with display to be available in the second half of 2018. Google Assistant will drive both devices. The WK9 display is one inch larger than Echo Show and includes Meridian Audio and Chromecast connectivity.
The Rise of the Smart Assistant Displays
It looks like this smart display market is going to quickly become crowded. A Google Assistant webpage points out that LG, Sony, Lenovo and Harman’s JBL unit all have devices in development. I couldn’t locate the Xperia at Sony’s CES media event Monday evening, but Google Assistant is supported on that device in Japan and now commonly found in new Sony smart speakers and TVs.
The Lenovo Smart Display is essentially a tablet with a speaker on one end that can be oriented either horizontally or vertically. Lenovo is only saying that the device is coming soon. Engadget reports that the JBL Link View is due to ship in Summer 2018, includes two 10-watt speakers and has Chromecast built in for multi-room media playback.
Don’t Forget About Smart TVs
The era of audio-only voice assistants in smart speakers is quickly drawing to an end. In addition to the many smart assistant displays, just about every new TV at CES claims to have Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant integration…or both. In reality, most of them have Android OS so Google Assistant is run natively on the devices which can connect to Alexa through skills. Some manufacturers have their own voice assistants. Samsung’s Bixby is a notable example.
The clear theme is using voice to access entertainment and informational content that is then displayed on your screen of choice. Televisions will meet that need in some rooms while other household spaces might be good candidates for the new smart assistant displays. It is not clear whether consumers will see this display functionality as attractive as smart speakers have proven to be. However, just about every major entertainment electronics manufacturer is counting on it. Voice assistants are starting to look like standard features as opposed to differentiators.