Alexa and Google Home aren’t the only pieces of voice-controlled assistant hardware available this holiday season. Today SoundHound announced the first third-party speaker to harness the power of its Hound platform. Built by Boombotix, the stand-alone device will not only play your music, but can answer your questions about the weather, flights, news, sports scores and more.
The Hurricane smart speaker is built upon SoundHound’s Houndify speech-to-meaning technology. Like Alexa, it has a wake phrase (OK Hound) and will answer your queries. But the tech’s impressive ability to answer a context-aware series of questions is now no longer regulated to the Hound app. For example, you can ask the device the weather in a city, then ask how much a hotel will cost, where you can get pizza and the weather in the same city without mentioning its name in follow-up questions.
Also unlike Alexa, new features don’t have to be turned on. “On our platform, you never have to enable a format or skill set, it will just work,” Katie McMahon, VP and GM at SoundHound told Engadget. The company calls these “Domains” and currently has over 150 available for users.
And while asking questions in a more natural way is nice, the real focus of the Hurricane is playing music. The portable speaker connects via WiFi. But if you want to go outside beyond your home network it will also pair via Bluetooth to a smartphone to keep its connection to SoundHound and your music service of choice.
Boombotix CEO Sean Sullivan said, “It’s great to have those side skills, but for us, really the focus was on making a really great music experience first.”
To that end, the Hurricane has two full-range drivers and a 10-watt active four-inch subwoofer. To listen to your questions, it has four microphones and an LED that lights up to notify you that it’s listening and thinking.
The Hound-powered speaker is currently available on Kickstarter for $199 and will ship in late December.