Voice-activated speakers for your home seem to be the latest hardware craze after the success of Amazon’s Echo. The latest comes from speaker manufacturer Haman Kardon and is called ‘Invoke’. Its the first Cortana-enabled hardware outside Microsoft.
As you’d expect from a premium speaker manufacturer, the Invoke offers premium 360 sound. The cylindrical speaker obviously borrows heavily from the Echo design, although the Invoke has a bigger butt and features a illuminated display on top to let you know its alive. A built-in microphone allows you to command it from across the room to call on Cortana.
This is an IoT device that’s connected to your home WiFi, allowing it to talk to other smart home devices, play your favorite music, manage calendars and activities, set reminders, check traffic, and deliver the latest news and much more. Being powered by a Microsoft service, its no surprise to see Skype integration, allowing you can make calls to cell phones, landlines and other Skype-enabled devices.
The big flaw in that plan is the assumption people are still using Skype. Most of my contact list doesn’t use Skype anymore, they’ve moved on to Facebook Messenger, so until that integration arrives, there won’t be any calling going on.
This brings us to the other big concern. Microsoft are again playing catchup in yet category. Amazon’s Echo is loved by users because of the more than 10,000 skills you can ask Aelxa. While Cortana certainly makes for a starting point, there’s a lot more than web searches that needs to be addressed. Microsoft has alos been slow to release the Cortana voice API for even the keenest developers to support the platform.
When it comes to controlling other IoT devices like your Hue light bulbs, Sonos audio system, Belkin power outlets, Ring doorbell or connected thermostat, its going to be a rough ride for quite a while.
While the actual hardware from Harmon Kardon actually looks pretty slick and gives an option to Windows users, its incredibly hamstrung by the services side of the equation. Remember that any modern Windows 10 PC can also respond to Cortana requests, hopefully the Invoke is doing some magic to reduce noise, increase accuracy from a microphone array so you can yell at it, even in a noisy environment.
Furthermore, this device is available in the US only. Set up requires Cortana app for Windows 10 PC or phone (with the Windows 10 Creators Update), Android or iPhone (requires Android version 4.1.2 or higher, or iPhone 4 with iOS 8.0 or higher).
More information at harmankardon.com