Samsung is reportedly building a voice-enabled speaker product that will feature the company’s Bixby voice-activated artificial intelligence engine in an effort to make some noise in a growing market that already has a wide range of competitors.
Samsung’s plans, which were revealed by several people who are familiar with the project, have been in the works for more than a year, but there is not yet a specific date for the release of such a product, according to a July 4 story by The Wall Street Journal.
Inside Samsung, the smart speaker project is known by the code name “Vega,” the story reported, but no technical details are yet available. The company is developing the product to take on devices already available, including Amazon’s Echo and Google Home from Alphabet, as well as upcoming products such as HomePod from Apple and Harmon Kardon’s Invoke, which are both expected to hit the market later in 2017.
Complicating Samsung’s Vega project is that its Bixby personal digital assistant is still under development for the U.S. market and was not finished in time for the release of the company’s latest flagship Galaxy S8 smartphones when they went on sale in April, according to an earlier eWEEK story. The voice assistant component of Samsung’s Bixby didn’t work out of the box in the new Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones, while other Bixby components, such as its visual search and reminder capabilities, were available.
Products in the voice-activated speaker marketplace generally offer a wide range of capabilities, including responding to their users commands to turn lights on or off, operate other devices, place orders for take-out food, control household thermostats and much more.
Samsung perhaps is getting into the market late in the game, however, according to recent statistics from market research firm eMarketer, which shows Amazon’s Echo already earning about 70.6 percent of the voice-activated speaker market in the United States. Google Home will capture about 23.8 percent of the U.S. market this year, while the remainder is expected to be shared by vendors including Lenovo, LG and Mattel, according to eMarketer.
Worse for Samsung is that while Amazon’s market share will likely fall slightly in the coming years as Google’s share grows, according to eMarketer, “Amazon will remain the dominant player in the category for the foreseeable future.”
About 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month in 2017, which is up 128.9 percent over 2016, the research firm reported.
Amazon’s digital assistant is Alexa, while Microsoft’s artificial intelligence engine is called Cortana. The Harmon Kardon Invoke device is slated to use Cortana for voice commands.