Baidus Raven H smart speakers have the strangest design of 2017

Speakers come in all shapes and sizes, but Chinese tech giant Baidu is set to release the strangest looking smart speakers of 2017.

Looking like something that has been as much inspired by Lego bricks as it has from concept speakers, the Raven H smart speaker at first glance appears to be a stack of plastic squares.

But its actually a from of modular speaker with the top and bottom squares being removable. The bottom square houses an LCD display and remote so the smart speaker can be controlled from any room in a house. Why the top square is removable isn’t clear at the moment, but it would appear to pave the way for speaker upgrades and add-ons further down the line.

The core feature of the Raven H is its smart assistant served up courtesy of Baidu’s DuerOS voice control platform.

Much like Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant, smart capabilities in DuerOS allows the Raven H to react to various commands and prompts, such as telling a user when their football team is playing next or setting alarms or hailing taxis through connected services.

There’s no word on whether the Raven H will make it out of China when it goes on sale for RMB 1,699, around £194, next month.

Baidu is also pushing its smart home tech further with two robots, the Raven R and Raven Q. The former is a six-axis bot with “emotional intelligence” designed to move and react in more emotional ways to a user’s commands and prompts.

The Raven Q has even less details surrounding it as it’s deeper in development than its sibling bot, but it’s being touted as the centre of an artificial intelligence controlled smart home, with Baidu planning on stuffing it with all manner or AI tech, such as computer vision and natural language processing.

“Each product in our new Raven series is integrated with Baidu’s latest AI technologies, including facial recognition, computer vision and even our Apollo autonomous driving technology. These smart speakers and AI home robot may sound like a small step in the history of technology – but they will help people’s everyday lives and bring them an experience once only seen in sci-fi movies.” said Cheng Lyu, the general manager of Baidu’s intelligent hardware unit, outlining the company’s AI ambitions.

Time will tell is Baidu’s smart home tech makes is out of China and into the UK, but either way it should prompt Google and Amazon to keep being innovative with their smart speakers and devices.

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