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June 16, 2017

Line’s cute AI speakers are unimpressed by your mindless requests

by John_A

We knew Japanese messaging giant Line was working on an AI assistant called Clova, and that it would first inhabit a clever-looking smart speaker called the Wave. What we only just discovered, however, is that Clova’s next physical avatars would include an unamused duck and a bear that always looks just a little disappointed.

In case you mostly chat on other platforms, these characters are based on a slew of stickers Line users can hurl at each other inside the app. Line hasn’t confirmed whether these Clova-powered speakers — collectively known as the Champ series — would embody their characters in different ways. Different voices, anyone?

Still, the laundry list of features Clova brings to the table is considerable, especially since Amazon’s Alexa doesn’t work in Japan yet. So far, we know that these speakers will let you manage calendars and to-do lists, check the weather, control compatible appliances and have “casual conversations” directly through the Line service.

Japanese Line fanatics won’t be able to get their hands on the Champ speakers until this winter at the earliest, but the wait is probably for the best. Remember that first Clova-powered speaker we mentioned? Line admits it’s going to soft-launch this summer with one of its major features — support for the company’s music streaming service — hobbled. A complete version of the Wave will go on sale in the fall, which means that users itching for a duck-flavored Champ should get access to the full extent of Clova’s features the moment they go on sale. Here’s hoping Google responds with a version of the Google Home that looks like a bugdroid — Mountain View’s smart speaker will touch down in Japan by the end of the summer.

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