It’s getting easier to build a smart home in India but AI assistants still need localization
The smart home market in India is growing, albeit at a slower pace than western countries
The smart home segment in India is getting bigger, slowly but surely.
Amazon, for instance, has announced a host of new Alexa-powered devices in the US, some of which are headed to India. In fact, the new versions of Amazon’s Echo speakers—the Echo Dot, Echo Plus and Echo Sub—went on sale on the company’s marketplace in India on 11 October. Amazon also plans to launch the new Echo Show and Echo Input in India next year.
Google, though, seems to have taken a pause after launching Google Home. It showcased the new Google Home Hub at its Made By Google event recently, but is yet to announce any plans for India.
Smart plugs, smart lights and some other accessories that support Google and Amazon’s assistants have already existed for a while. For instance, iRobot sells its Roomba 980 robot vacuum cleaners that can be run using an Echo speaker, while the Xiaomi Mi TV and Sony Bravia OLED A9F, support both Google Assistant and Alexa voice assistants, albeit to a limited extent. Devices, such as Echo, have been adopted by hotels too—Hotel Park Inn by Radisson is one such example.
Philips has a line of smart lights under its Hue brand, while Syska has competing devices that are often slightly cheaper. In fact, Chinese Yeelight, a company owned by Xiaomi, is also launching a range of smart lights in India soon.
The smart home market in India is growing, albeit at a slower pace than the West. One reason is that building a voice assistant suited to Indian users is critical to grow the smart home ecosystem, which is easier said than done. In fact, this is one reason why Amazon took time to introduce its AI speakers in India, according to Miriam Daniel, vice president, Alexa Devices.
Amazon had to teach the AI assistant to understand typical Indian sayings such as ‘two-two-za’, instead of ‘two multiplied by two is’. Similarly, since many Echo users here ask for Rajnikanth jokes, Amazon had to train its AI assistant to do so. Further, unlike in most countries, a single sentence can have multiple languages in India.
For instance, when you say “Play zindagi na milegi dobara”, you’re using both Hindi and English. As users in India buy more such devices, Alexa “will get better ”, insists Daniels.
Further, the features of this device are used differently in every country, she adds. Indians, for instance, use news briefings more, while timers are not as popular here as they are in the West.
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