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August 31, 2018

There is nothing even slightly cube-like about the Huawei AI Cube smart speaker

by John_A



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Huawei AI Cube

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Huawei AI Cube

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Huawei AI Cube

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Huawei AI Cube

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Huawei AI Cube

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Huawei AI Cube

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Huawei AI Cube

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

No, we haven’t published the wrong pictures, this really is the Huawei AI Cube, which as you can see isn’t a cube at all. It’s a puzzling naming decision. When we asked Huawei about it, the company chose to leave it as one of those great unanswered questions. Maybe the sequel will be called the AI Cylinder, and be shaped like a cube, or maybe we’re just looking at it wrong?

Apart from calling it a cube, the name gives away what this product is all about. It’s Huawei’s smart speaker, incorporating an AI assistant, a speaker system, and unusually a 4G LTE connection too. You’re expecting us to say it uses Google Assistant for the smart capabilities aren’t you? It doesn’t. Amazon’s Alexa has been called up for duty aboard the AI Cube. This allows you to control your smart home devices, take advantage of Alexa’s many Skills, and ask it general questions throughout the day.

Huawei indicated it added its own artificial intelligence expertise in some form to Alexa.

Why not Google Assistant? Huawei was cagey about its reasons, but it’s not the first time Amazon and Huawei have collaborated, having previously added Alexa in the form of an app to the Huawei Mate 10 Pro smartphone. Huawei indicated it added its own artificial intelligence expertise in some form to Alexa on the AI Cube too, although in what capacity isn’t clear.

About twice the size of a Google Home, the AI Cube stands tall on a table, and comes with either grey or red cloth covering the speaker array at the base of the unit. A 15-watt mono driver with an aluminum diaphragm is matched with passive radiators to generate the sound, but we only heard Alexa speak during our brief time with the speaker, so we cannot comment on its ability as a music player. Huawei’s own Histen audio technology — usually seen on Huawei and Honor phones — is included, along with four microphones and far-field voice recognition technology so you can speak to Alexa from across the room.

4G LTE, but no battery

If the name has confused you, prepare to furrow your brow further, because the AI Cube has 4G LTE enabled with a SIM card. This doesn’t really make it portable though, as we were told it doesn’t have a battery. We understand the need for portable Bluetooth speakers, but not the need for portable smart speakers, especially when they still need to be plugged into a wall socket. It supports Cat.6 LTE at speeds up to 300Mbps though, and has 802.11AC dual-band Wi-Fi, along with an an Ethernet port under the speaker. On the top you’ll find volume keys and a mute button, and the surrounding around the controls glows when the speaker is active.

Huawei AI Cube Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The AI Cube is joined at IFA 2018 with the Huawei Locator, a location tracker with a battery that provides 60 days of standby and 15 days of actual tracking, which is done using various GPS systems, Assisted GPS, and global roaming. It’s designed so you can keep watch over misbehaving children, errant senior citizens, annoying pets, and easily lost baggage. The unit is matchbox-small, has an IP68 rating for water resistance, and a built-in SOS button. In addition to the GPS, which is accurate down to 5 meters, Bluetooth Low Energy takes over within a 10 meter range, and geo-fences can be setup for alerts.

Taken with the idea of either the AI Cube or Huawei Locator? The AI Cube will be out in Europe around Christmas time, and the price will be announced when it’s ready for sale. There was no comment on a U.S. release, and the AI Cube won’t be released in China either. The Huawei Locator also doesn’t have a price yet, but may be subject to a contract or ongoing fees when it is released in Europe.

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