Messaging app Line is working on a range of smart speakers to take on Amazon’s Echo range, Google Home, and Apple’s newly announced HomePod. It has more than one version in the works, and all incorporate its Clova artificial intelligence platform.
The Wave is the primary product and will arrive first, but will be followed by the Champ, which promises to beat all the challengers when it comes to cuteness. Finally, a version called Face, which has a screen, will arrive in the future. Here’s everything you need to know about them.
The Line Wave is a Bluetooth-connected smart speaker with two 1-inch tweeters and a 2.5-inch woofer inside, along with Wi-Fi connectivity, 8GB of storage, and four microphones for voice recognition. Unusually, it also has a 5,000mAh battery so it can be carried around the house, without the need to find a wall socket.
Like other smart speakers, the Wave can be controlled by voice, and Clova will provide information on calendar appointments, weather, to-do lists, and more. It’s not known which services Line will integrate yet. Additionally, the speaker will be able to control smart home devices, and apparently learn remote codes to operate those not connected to the internet. Interestingly, you’ll be able to control Line chats through the speaker, and have, “casual conversations,” with Clova too.
The Wave will have a staggered release. On July 14, Line put a music-only version without the Clova smart features up for pre-order on its Clova website, with deliveries expected at the end of the month. Referred to as a trial version, it will play music, tell you the weather, set alarms, and chat in Japanese. It comes with six months of free access to Line Music, which has 40 million tracks available to stream.
In the fall, the full version of Wave with Clova on board will go on sale, and a free software update provided to owners of the trail version will add all new functionality, so there’s no chance of missing out. The price will be 15,000 yen ($136) for the full version, and 10,000 yen ($91) for the music-only trial model.
Modeled on popular Line characters Brown the bear and Sally the chick (Cony the rabbit is sadly absent from the initial press pictures), the Champ speaker is referred to as a, “more casual and more portable version,” of the Wave speaker. The features are likely to be shared between them, and will unsurprisingly provide immediate access to the Line Music streaming service, providing both search features for a song or artist, plus a recommendation system based on mood and environment. The cute Champ speakers are expected to launch in the winter this year, with prices to be announced.
Line is also working on a a concept Clova product called Face, which incorporates a display. Little is known about the Face’s extra features, but the early images show the screen will show calendar appointments, and as the name suggests, a cute face.
Line Clova partnerships
Line isn’t limiting Clova to its own products either. Sony is first on the list to potentially include the AI technology in the company’s smart products, which have already been revealed as concepts without Clova. Yamaha will cooperate with Line to use Clova’s AI brains in its Vocaloid voice synthesis platform, while Toyota and FamilyMart stores will also work on bringing Clova to apps and services.
These partnerships are forward-looking, but the Wave speaker will arrive before then, with the full release expected in the fall. Line operates globally, but is most popular in Japan, so expect the Clova-powered speakers not to speak English immediately.
Update: We’ve added pre-order details and more specification information for the Line Wave speaker.