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Why is anyone interested in an intelligent speaker?

by on05 October 2017

Now Google has released a rivals Apple’s pointless HomePod

Search enginee outfit Google has been showing off a $400 speaker, called Home Max, that looks like it will compete directly with Apple's recently announced HomePod.  But the real question is what is the point of this technology?

The concept of having a stereo that can do the leg work of searching through your musical collection is a great idea. However both Apple, and now Google have missed the point of what such a device is supposed to do. Take Google's Home Max is a larger Google Home that features stereo speakers and more premium looks and materials. It's expected to go on sale in December in the US.

Apparently, it can tune its audio to its own space, analysing the sound coming from the speaker using its built in microphones to determine the best equalizer settings. This sounds like a complete disaster if you are an audiophile, but if you are looking at a $400 intelligent speaker you are almost certainly not an audiophile and just want something that will make your Taylor Swift albums sound better.

Google calls this Smart Sound, and it evolves over time and based on where you move the speaker, using built-in machine learning.

It has Cast functionality, as well as input via a stereo 3.5 mm jack. Home Max can output sound that's up to 20 times more powerful than the standard version of Home, Google said, and it has two 4.5-inch woofers on board with two 0.7 inch custom-built tuners. It can sit in either vertical or horizontal orientation, and it comes in 'chalk' and 'charcoal' because grey is such an underrated fashion colour.

The speaker also includes a noise isolating array that makes it work even in open rooms with background noise, and it's Assistant-enabled, so you can use it to control your music playback via voice, or manage your smart home devices, set yourself reminders, alarms, and timers.

This is one trend which I really cannot see where it is going. Sound quality on computer equipment has been universally bad, and having a giant transistor radio which talks back to you sounds more annoying than anything else.  Apple's own attempt is even worse, having a small speaker and the fact that it is wired to Siri which is about as useful as having it connected to the cat.

None of these products have thought the obvious. Let's connect it to the punter's real stereo and not worry about the whole speaker thing.  Give it a digital out button of some sort and then the AI can actually take control of your entertainment centre.  Is it too much to ask?


Last modified on 05 October 2017
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