Battle of the smart speakers is intensifying as Microsoft and Harman Kardon announced today a new connected speaker with the Cortana personal assistant built-in and other artificial intelligence features.

Dubbed Invoke, the smart home accessory features premium 360 sound powered by Harman Kardon technology, a “touch to surprise” user interface panel at the top with interactive Cortana lighting and built-in controls, easy setup via Windows 10 or the dedicated Cortana app for iPhone and Android and more.

The metal housing packs in three tweeters, three woofers and and two passive radiators.

With Invoke, Microsoft fans will be able to ask Cortana questions and tell her to play music, as well as check calendar appointments, set reminders, check traffic, get weather, the latest sports scores and news headlines, and much more.

Invoke can be used to control home devices like lights and thermostats using voice. Microsoft says home automation features work with select providers only.

“We are excited to partner with Harman Kardon to create a speaker that combines premium audio and stylish design with the intelligence of Cortana.” said Jordi Ribas, CVP, AI Products at Microsoft. “This is our next step in bringing Cortana to even more devices to help users be more productive wherever they are.”

You’ll recall that Samsung acquired Harman International last November.

Microsoft first teased the device in December 2016.

One thing that will set Ivoke apart from rivals is integrated hands-free calling to cell phones, landlines and other Skype-enabled devices through Microsoft’s Skype app. Not unlike the Echo range of smart speakers from Amazon, Microsoft’s device features seven microphones and far-field technology allowing it to pick up voices from across a noisy room.

Far-field audio technology is based on Harman’s beam forming, echo cancellation and noise reduction algorithms to ensure Cortana can hear you, “even in challenging environments.”

The key features on Invoke include:

  • Premium sound—Harman Kardon high-quality sound featuring 3 woofers and 3 tweeters give full range, true 360-degree sound. The 2 passive radiators are tuned to give a solid bass performance from a small enclosure.
  • Cortana—Cortana is your truly personal digital assistant designed to help you be more productive. Cortana can set reminders, make lists, manage calendars, provide answers to questions, and much more. Cortana also works across devices, including PC and mobile, so she’s there whenever you need help.
  • Skype calling—Make and receive hands-free calls to cell phones, landlines, and any Skype-enabled device.
  • Smart home control—Control your smart home devices including lights and thermostat and more.
  • Sonique far-field voice technology—Featuring 7 microphones embedded into the speaker, using Harman’s beam forming, echo cancellation, and noise reduction algorithms to ensure Cortana can hear you, even in challenging environments.

Invoke is scheduled to arrive this fall via select retailers and Microsoft Stores. At launch, the gadget will be offered to customers in the United States, potentially rolling out globally at a later stage. Pricing has yet to be set.

Invoke will be available in Graphite (Black) or Pearl Silver (White).

For additional information, visit harmankardon.com/invoke.

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Apple is thought to have finalized design of its smart speaker that could debut at WWDC.

The device is said to integrate Siri and AirPlay features in a cylindrical form factor akin to Mac Pro sporting a concave top with built-in controls and a speaker mesh portion covering it all.

It will reportedly run a version of iOS and include Beats audio technology with “excellent acoustic performance” powered by seven tweeters, one woofer and possibly the company’s W1 wireless chip which debuted in AirPods.

  • Obada Essa

    Hahaha the irony! Because Samsung owns Harman currently..

  • Munchy

    No point for me. I stoped buying windows mobile and microsoft not only doesn’t have a mobile phone presence but the apps are shrinking as they leave windows store. Myfitnesspal paypal here maps all gone and many more still missing. Heck ice been trying to use Fontana for Alex for about 6 months now on normal and insider builds and still it wants to open the groove music app. Maybe if microsf5 actually had a working pled voice and a mobile phone presence of have been sold but to many promises and to long waiting for features we used to have in windows 8.1 has exhausted my interest I anything microsft. There’s no guarantee that microsoft will even support the d3vice. My lumia 930 was ignored from The new greater update and that’s only 3 years old. So no the tour 1 year too late for me microsft.

    • GUY

      You think 3 years is “only”? Be reasonable, no company is going to make you a product that runs good for more than 3 years!