This smart speaker is dumb until you add a smartphone.
Amazon and Google would love for us to have their smart speakers in every room, ready to help answer questions, but more importantly use services and place orders that make them money. That’s why these speakers continue to fall in price. Samsung has come up with an alternative way to make smart speakers cheaper, though, by selling them as dumb speakers.
At the SXSW 2018 trade show held in Austin last month, Samsung demonstrated a smart speaker called Aurora. It differs from other smart speakers because Aurora requires a smartphone in order to function. By taking this approach, the smart speaker can be manufactured and sold for a much lower price.
Aurora does have a few quirks to help differentiate it from other speakers. As well as acting as a smartphone charger, it turns a character displayed on your phone’s display screen into a 3D projection, which then animates and reacts to the user based on their requests. It can also respond to gestures through the use of your smartphone’s camera.
According to XTech, Aurora has been in development for six months at Samsung’s C-Lab incubation program. The project was started after Samsung reviewed other smart speakers on the market and realized you can separate out the brains and rely on a phone instead. For now, there are no plans to release it or any clues as to how much it would cost.
One of the problems Samsung needs to solve is supporting all types of handset. The prototype unit looked as though it would only work with smartphones designed specifically for use in Aurora. There’s also the question of how quickly a smartphone could recharge if it was also being asked to function as a smart speaker that uses its display, microphones, and camera.