Last week, I headed out to Hong Kong to visit companies at the Global Sources and Hong Kong Electronics Fair. Many of the companies exhibiting were ODM/OEM for different consumer electronics products. There were likely hundreds of different speaker manufacturers (you can read about the different types here). However, one thing was very different at this fair — the propagation and awareness of Alexa Voice Service among the device makers.
There were three categories of voice enabled devices: 1) Robots; 2) Home automation devices; and 3) Speakers.
There were a number of robots that ranged from uncanny valley devices to NAO-style bipedal. The voice interaction on these was fairly limited, mostly to near-field communication. These universally responded poorly to the trigger, indicating a likely implementation of Sphinx open-source tools. I can imagine that these devices would be horribly frustrating to use and are probably better as dolls / pet toys than true interactive devices.
Home Automation Devices
A few OEM/ODMs were showcasing how their devices had pre-built apps and pre-built Alexa Skills and HomeKit. This reminded me of the hub strategy that many of these companies were pursuing a few years back. I can imagine that by the next fair, these will also be Siri Kit and Google Assistant enabled devices.
There were many Bluetooth OEM/ODMs displaying. Almost all WiFi speaker makers had some interest in implementing Alexa or had already started on push-to-talk Alexa integration. Thousands of buyers were visiting with these OED/ODMs, so it’s likely that we’ll see many of these speakers or versions of them on store shelves around June 2017.
While there was less variety than at CES, there were certainly many more companies at the Hong Kong shows to choose from for supplying different consumer electronics devices. I’m excited to see what will be out at the next show in six months.