Xiaomi revealed through its Mi Community that it will offer a new voice assistant speaker for $30 in January. Sold by Xiaomi subsidiary Yeelight, the big deal with this device is that it will sport two virtual assistants: One based on Xiaomi artificial intelligence technology to be used within China, and Amazon Alexa for customers located in the Western market. This dual-A.I. support enables Yeelight to sell the voice assistant speaker on a global scale.
Although Xiaomi and Yeelight didn’t elaborate on the stated China-based A.I. technology, speculation points to possible Microsoft Cortana integration. Microsoft and Xiaomi made a deal in May 2016 that would bring Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Skype to Xiaomi phones as pre-installed apps. In return, Microsoft sold 1,500 patents to Xiaomi. Both companies officially called the move a “cross-license and patent transfer agreement.”
The puzzle piece stringing all this together is Microsoft’s Azure platform. It powers not only the cloud aspects of Microsoft’s apps, but Xiaomi’s Mi Cloud service as well. Since Cortana is a key component of the Azure platform, creating AI technology based on Cortana — and possibly using related patents purchased and/or licensed by Microsoft — seemingly backs up all the Cortana speculation related to the new voice assistant speaker.
Still, Xiaomi and Yeelight didn’t officially announce Cortana support, only Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Meanwhile, here are the specifications:
|Voice input:||6x microphones|
|Voice input range:||Up to 16.4 feet|
|Processor:||Quad-core Cortex-A53 chip|
Bluetooth Low Energy
“Yeelight Voice Assistant is equipped with Dual A.I. system and can also be used for the control of other Xiaomi home automation products, such as smart LED lamps, table lamps, bedside lamps, ceiling lights, etc,” the announcement states. “The device is currently supporting only of Xiaomi branded home automation products for the Xiaomi smart home, while in the coming weeks support will be extended to more devices.”
If the Yeelight Voice Assistant is indeed powered by Cortana, it would be one of only three stand-alone speakers to support Microsoft’s assistant. Samsung-owned Harman launched the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker in October, standing 9.5 inches tall and packing three woofers, three tweeters, and two passive radiators. It not only supports Cortana but has hands-free calling using Skype. Two months after its release, the Invoke now only costs $100, half of its original price.
Meanwhile, HP is slated to launch a stand-alone Cortana-powered speaker in the near future. HP’s version was originally slated for the 2017 holidays, but it may not appear until the CES 2018 technology show in a few weeks. The device originally made an appearance as a slide during Microsoft’s Build conference in May followed by Computex.
That all said, the Yeelight Voice Assistant will land on store shelves in China on January 31. Whether it actually supports Cortana remains to be seen. It will follow the tower-shaped Mi A.I. speaker launched earlier this year in China for $45.