Hardware

CES 2017: LG unveils digital assistant Hub Robot, sets to compete with Amazon Echo and Google Home

LG's new Hub Robot can recognize different users and connect with IoT devices via voice commands. But, is that enough to compete with the industry leaders?

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Image: LG

LG has thrown its hat into the digital assistant ring. Hub Robot, the company's competitor to Amazon Echo and Google Home, was announced at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Hub Robot "takes the concept of the smart home to the next level," according to a press release. The small, white, anthropomorphic assistant uses Amazon Alexa's voice recognition technology to connect with IoT devices in a user's home or office.

While Hub Robot performs many of the same tasks as the Echo and Google Home, such as playing music, setting alarms, and offering weather alerts, LG said the difference lies in its ability to complete household tasks. The assistant can connect to LG appliances, allowing a user to turn on the air conditioning, preheat the oven, or change a dryer cycle with a voice command, according to the press release. The robot's display can also show images of contents inside your refrigerator, and display recipes with audio instructions.

However, the assistant can only perform these tasks if a user already owns or decides to purchase LG appliances. But, given that Hub Robot runs on Amazon's Alexa technology, it's likely that LG could partner with other companies in the future.

SEE: CES 2017 Special Coverage (CNET) | CES 2017 (TechRepublic) | CES 2017: The Big Trends for Business (ZDNet)

Hub Robot is more human-like in appearance than the Echo or Google Home. It has two glowing blue eyes, and is designed to express a range of emotions by displaying different faces.

"The Hub Robot is designed to respond to consumers using body language, such as nodding its head when answering simple questions, and is always aware of activities inside the home, such as when family members leave, come home and go to bed," the press release stated.

The device also features a camera that can distinguish between different people's faces, and can be programmed to greet individuals in different ways—which neither the Echo nor Google Home can currently do.

But, Hub Robot will face stiff competition from those current industry leaders, which both announced new partnerships and use cases at CES 2017 as well.

Alexa will soon be found in Whirlpool appliances, Lenovo smart devices, Ford cars, and ADT security systems. The Alexa skill store now lists over 7,000 skills—up from 6,000 just three weeks ago. Clearly, companies see the benefit of integrating with Alexa to reach customers at home and in the office.

Meanwhile, Google announced partnerships with Daimler and Hyundai to integrate Google Assistant into vehicles, and also said that Google Assistant will come to Android TV this year. The company unveiled its Actions on Google developer platform in December.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. At CES 2017, LG announced Hub Robot, a digital assistant built with Amazon Alexa voice recognition technology to connect with IoT devices in a user's home or office.
  2. Hub Robot differs from competitors Amazon Echo and Google Home in that it can recognize different users, and connect to LG appliances.
  3. However, with both Alexa and Google Assistant rapidly expanding with new partnerships, it may be difficult for LG to compete unless it makes similar relationships with other manufacturers.

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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