While Amazon and Google are battling for voice assistant dominance in the home, they’ve mostly neglected other countries. Now Baidu, in partnership with AiNemo, is building the Xiaoyu Zaijia (“Little Fish”) family robot, which, on paper, has most of Alexa’s talents along with a big screen, a camera, and a touch of robotics. If you couldn’t guess, it’s for China.
The robot responds to the “xiaoyu xiaoyu” wake word, and turns its head to look at whoever is talking. I don’t speak Chinese, so I couldn’t talk to it beyond waking it up, but the voice commands were consistently working for the Chinese PR people who were showing me the robot, even in the noisy environment of the show floor. They set timers, made video calls, and asked “show me a hammerhead shark” (demonstrating the value of a screen for kids). You can order meals, groceries, and medicine with your voice, but only if your face is recognized as an authorized adult — no hacking, kids!
And, in a new minimum feature requirement for any robot at CES this year, you can call in to Little Fish from your phone and pan its camera remotely. Robbers are so busted now.
Little Fish is powered by Baidu’s own DuerOS, which has already shown up in many incarnations — it’s been a waiter at KFC, an OS for TVs, and a phone assistant app.
If you’re in China, you’ll be able to get this robot in spring for the equivalent of $300 USD. Baidu does have English support in some of its products, but it’s still building out the sort of content necessary to power a bot like this. I think a US version of Little Fish is unlikely, but it’s only fair seeing how US-centric home voice assistants have been so far.