Harman Kardon has officially announced the first intelligent smart home speaker to feature Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant. Here’s what we know so far about the Amazon Echo and Google Home rival as Microsoft’s Build 2017 gets underway.
The new Harman Kardon Invoke is the result of a partnership between Microsoft and the Samsung-owned audio firm and, much like the Amazon Echo, it features a cylindrical 360-degree speaker with far-field voice-activated microphones.
Like its soon-to-be-rival, Invoke can play music and offer ‘room filling’ sound and control smart home devices. It’ll manage calendars, check news and traffic and much more.
However, it also has a string to its bow the original Amazon Echo speaker (the new Amazon Echo Show is a separate case) and Google Home do not possess: the ability to make and receive voice calls. Naturally, it’s Microsoft’s Skype handling that side of things.
Related: Amazon Echo Show vs Amazon Echo
It also integrates Harman’s beam forming, echo cancellation and noise reduction algorithms enabling the Invoke to rise above “challenging” ambient noise and still hear your commands.
There’s also a so-called “touch to surprise” interface panel on top of the device, although the companies haven’t gone into deal on exactly how it’ll work.
It looks like it’s only coming to the US market – at least initially – via the Microsoft Store and select retailers, but we expect to learn more during Microsoft’s Build 2017 keynote.
The conference runs from May 10 to May 12, and will almost certainly see new Microsoft software and hardware showcased, with the Invoke Cortana speaker likely to take top billing.
We already know that it will arrive in two colours – Peal Silver (White) and Graphite (Black) – as per Harman’s official announcement, but price and release date details are still thin on the ground.
UK launch info is also up in the air at present, but here are a few official snaps of the Invoke to whet your appetite.
Related: Amazon Echo vs Dot vs Tap
Invoke Cortana speaker at Build 2017
We learned a little more about the Invoke speaker during a brief demonstration during the exceptionally long cloud computing portion of the Build 2017 keynote.
Microsoft showed how the Harman Kardon speaker could get a leg-up on the Amazon Echo platform hosted by Alexa.
Using first and third-party skills, Microsoft project manager Laura Jones demonstrated how named meetings and Expedia bookings can be read from the calendar.
However, this is where it gets interesting. Cortana was able to inform Laura the car was running low on fuel and that she should leave ten minutes earlier to gas up.
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Developers can create also skills that interface with workplace-based systems that deal with vacations. Using Cortana and Time Away, users will be able to set their out of offices and register holiday time.
All of this interacts with Microsoft’s Intelligent Edge cloud tools and the new Slack competitor “Teams” and will be synced across all devices via Cortana.
Both HP and Intel have also committed to building smart speakers to rival the Invoke.
We’re reporting on all the news from Microsoft Build so keep it locked to TrustedReviews on Wednesday May 10 for the latest.
Next up in the smart home speaker wars? Apple is widely understood to be prepping a smart speaker powered by its AI assistant, Siri, but if you’re looking to add some intelligence to your home right away, your two best options are the Amazon Echo and the Google Home.
What do you think of the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker? Let us know in the comments.