LG unveils voice-controlled air-conditioner

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LG unveils voice-controlled air-conditioner


Left: Samsung Electronics’ Chef Collection Family Hub 2.0 refrigerator, unveiled in April, is partially powered by its Bixby voice assistant. Right: LG Electronics on Wednesday debuted the Whisen Dual Special air-conditioner, which operates on DeepThinQ artificial intelligence voice command. [SAMSUNG, LG]

LG Electronics unveiled a new air-conditioner under its Whisen brand on Wednesday that can be controlled with voice commands without the need for a remote control. It not only understands users but also gets smarter over time through the so-called deep learning process.

Owners begin voice commands by saying “LG Whisen” - just like “Hi Bixby” for Samsung and “Hey Siri” for Apple products - and can control the power, adjust the temperature, wind direction and strength and launch other features such as dehumidification and air purification.

Voice commands have a maximum range of three meters (9.8 feet). The longer the product is used, the more it will recognize the owners’ voice and language use patterns.

The Whisen Dual Special air-conditioner can go so far as to understand context, LG claims. When the user says, “LG Whisen, it’s cold now,” the air-conditioner asks back, “Shall I raise the temperature?” If the user says, “Raise the temperature by one degree Celsius,” the machine replies, “The temperature has been raised to 26 degrees Celsius.”

“We chose an air-conditioner to apply the AI voice assistant to first among other white goods because the machine is deemed to have the biggest demand for voice commands, given how often the remote controller for it is used,” said Song Dae-hyun, president of LG’s home appliance and air solution division. “We will continue showcasing ever-more progressed AI consumer electronics products to offer the type of convenience that users want.”

The product marks a significant leap from the high-end air-conditioner released in January that introduced LG’s trademarked deep learning-based AI system DeepThinQ. The system made use of a camera to study the surroundings and owners’ habits in order to target and cool specific areas.

“We will make 2017 the beginning of AI-based consumer appliances,” said Song of LG during the launch event.

At the 2017 edition of the Consumer Electronics tech show in January, LG unveiled the latest smart refrigerator that features voice control powered by Amazon’s Alexa AI.

The voice-activated fridge, not yet commercially available, lets users to search for recipes, play music, place orders on Amazon and add items to a shopping list.

LG’s move shows that voice command technology, which has so far mainly been utilized in voice assistant speakers from tech companies such as Google, Amazon and SK Telecom, is spilling over into consumer electronics.

AI-powered voice control systems are set to replace touch-screen and physical commands, according to experts. Shawn DuBravac, chief economist at Consumer Technology Association, host of the CES, said earlier this year that voice-recognition technology has improved enough that it is “now poised to usher in an era of so-called faceless computing.”

“We have seen more progress in this technology in the last 30 months than we saw in the first 30 years,” DuBravac said.

Samsung Electronics in April debuted a luxury refrigerator under the Chef Collection Family Hub 2.0 brand that partially operates using voice commands via Bixby virtual assistant. The fridge can answer simple questions about the weather, tell users their schedule and search for recipes on the web following voice commands. Samsung vowed to apply the AI system to other appliances such as air-conditioners, vacuum cleaners and TVs.

The LG’s new air-conditioner also carries another new feature devoted to maintaining optimal air quality by automatically adjusting its wind power and purifying the air when the air quality worsens. Users can remotely control the machine using mobile messaging apps such as KakaoTalk and Line. The air-conditioner costs 3.2 million won ($2,800) and is available in one color, “Creamy Snow.”

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]

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