Baidu hosted its first CES event last week in part to promote the company’s strength in voice assistant driven devices. The company said the Little Fish home robot, which it launched in May, is popular and they are now bringing a lower priced model to market called VS1. The VS1 looks a lot like a more stylish version of Amazon Echo Show and fairly similar to a forthcoming product from Lenovo. A key point of the promotion is that, “you can see the future as well as hear it.” This messaging is designed for local competitors Alibaba and JD.com that have smart speakers but have not yet launched smart displays.
The smart display market is poised to heat up in the U.S. as four device manufacturers announced new smart displays for 2018 that incorporate Google Assistant. This will be Amazon’s first competition for its Echo Show that currently ships in the U.S., UK and Germany. Baidu has a similar head start in smart displays in China and no doubt wants to extend its advantage with the lower-priced VS1 before competitors can launch a product.
Customers Beyond China
Baidu’s Clement Song, CEO of Little Fish, pointed out that the device has found favor with consumers well beyond China. It is now in use in 45 countries and over 650 cities. He highlighted a drop-in feature that parents away for work use to check-in on their kids. He even discussed how his mother uses Little Fish to help his daughter with her homework nearly every day. Song commented:
Since our launch of the DuerOS conversational capabilities, we have seen growing demand from our users to ask the robot to do other things like playing videos, playing music, setting alarms and search for things. For a lot of the seniors we realize that voice commands are not just a convenient way for them to interact with computing, but the only way to use computing.
Improved Features Over First Generation Little Fish
The new VS1 has a six-microphone array to improve voice recognition and an improved speaker for audio quality. It will also enable a multi-party video chat and the drop-in feature. VS1 will use DuerOS 2.0 and have 30 new skills that include Baidu maps, knowledge graph, search and video libraries. The company is also working with independent developers to build more voice-driven applications. Finally, Song mentioned that VS1 can also work as a TV set-top box. More details will be available in March when the product will officially launch.