Huawei's Alexa-powered AI smart speaker can make calls

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Berlin : Huawei AI Cube, the first Amazon Alexa-powered smart speaker from the Chinese tech giant introduced at consumer electronics show IFA 2018 here, has the ability to make calls if it gets approval from local operators, cliams a top company executive.

Unlike other smart speakers such as the Google Home, Apple's HomePod or Amazon Echo devices, the cylindrical-sized speaker from Huawei also has a 4G mobile Internet router, meaning users can insert a SIM card in the device and make it their Wi-Fi hotspot if they so wish.

"We are planning to sell it in partnership with local mobile network operators just like what Jio is doing with its phones in India," Shudong Luo, Chief Marketing Engineer, IoT (Internet of Things) Produt Line, told IANS, hinting that the AI Cube could even come for free, depending on the partnership with the local carrier.

The AI Cube, which currenly supports three languages - English, German and French - is likely to hit the stores first in Europe towards the end of this year.

Huawei said it was currenly not prepared to bring it to the fledgling Indian smart speaker market.

Besides the addition of the 4G router, what sets the AI Cube apart from its competitors are the Huawei Histen audio technology and its enhanced AI capabilities that offers superior performance, Shudong said, adding that one can call the AI Cube from a maximum distance of five metres.

Histen enriches the AI speaker's set of features by including virtual bass, linear phase equaliser, adaptive gain control, far-field voice recognition and more as part of its repertoire, Huawei said.

While the calling capability of the AI Cube is not unique for a smart speaker, it may have a wider application than its competitors because of the 4G router.

"The AI Cube works like a human ear and automatically adjusts to the surrounding sound effects," Shudong said about the device powered by HiSilicon Balong chipset.

The device supports LTE category 6 speeds -- 300Mbps downlink - and is compatible with the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, meaning the router is dual band, capable of working on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels, according to Huawei.

With Alexa built into the device, consumers can use it to effortlessly play music, control smart home devices, and access more than 50,000 "skills", or apps, with voice commands.

The worldwide smart home devices market, inclusive of smart speakers and other devices, is forecast to ship 549.5 million devices in 2018, growing 26.8 per cent over the prior year, according to a report from research firm International Data Corporation (IDC).

The value of the smart speaker market is set to reach $27.8 billion in 2022 from $11.8 billion in 2018, according to the report.

(Gokul Bhagabati is attending IFA 2018 at the invitation of Huawei Consumer Business Group. He can be contacted at