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Image credit: Harmon/Kardon

Harman Kardon's Cortana-powered Echo rival makes Skype calls

The Invoke speaker also lets users play music and control their smart home.
Matt Brian, @m4tt
05.08.17 in AV
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Harmon/Kardon

If last year was all about the rise of Alexa and Google Assistant, 2017 might be when Cortana and Siri have time to shine. Apple is reportedly due to launch its oft-rumored connected speaker at its WWDC conference next month, but Microsoft has been quite open about its plan to expand its AI assistant beyond mobile and the desktop. In December, it teamed up with audio specialist Harman Kardon to begin building the first in a wider line of connected speakers. However, details have been scarce. Now, thanks to a (now pulled) landing page on the Samsung-owned company's website, we have a name -- Invoke -- and a better understanding of what it will offer.

As you can see from the shots provided, which were spotted by Thurrott.com, Invoke's cylindrical shape is reminiscent of the Amazon Echo. While Amazon's device is all plastic, Harman Kardon has gone for a premium look with a "metallic speaker cabinet." When the speaker is activated, a Cortana light ring is displayed on the top of the device.

Harman Kardon Cortana Invoke Speaker

One of the major messages in the Invoke's marketing material is Cortana's ability to "get things done." This will include letting users control their music, connect to devices inside their smart home and also the ability to make and receive Skype calls. This would allow Microsoft and Harman Kardon to market the speaker as much more than just an assistant.

While the landing page doesn't give a definitive launch date, it does note that the Invoke will be available from "fall 2017". There's no word on pricing either, but judging from the product shots, it will be available in two colors: black and white silver. Microsoft is expected to share more information on its plans for its AI assistant at its BUILD conference later this week, so we could learn some additional details about the Invoke then.

Update: We didn't have to wait long for Harman Kardon and Microsoft to make the Invoke launch official. In a statement, both companies confirmed that the speaker can be used to "favorite music, manage calendars and activities, set reminders, check traffic, deliver the latest news and much more."

It also comes with Sonique Far-Field Voice technology that, like the Echo, uses seven microphones to pinpoint a user's voice and deliver on their instructions in noisy environments. You can also bet that with Harman Kardon, the speaker itself will deliver premium audio quality. Inside the chassis are three woofers and three tweeters that the give the Invoke "full range, true 360-degree sound." Two passive radiators provide the small speaker with some decent bass output.

When it does arrive in the fall, the Invoke be a US exclusive. Harman Kardon says the connected speaker will be made available in Microsoft Stores and at select retailers, which will be announced at a later date.

Harman Kardon Invoke Cortana Speaker

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