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AI speaker manufacturers vie to secure local users to boost competitiveness

South Korean artificial intelligence speaker manufacturers are scrambling to lock in consumers that are critical for boosting their competitiveness moving forward, industry watchers said Tuesday.

SK Telecom, the country's largest mobile operators, and Naver Corp., the top Internet portal operator here, have recently unveiled half-price and free speakers as part of a promotional event to win over users.

AI speakers interact with users by engaging in audio searches and other functions through voice command. They use so-called deep learning systems to "evolve," so greater numbers of users will enhance overall capabilities of the service provider.


Industry watchers said the release of the small, high-performance speakers and offering of various benefits like low prices is designed to win over customers that is critical for future sales growth.

SK Telecom said it sold some 5,000 units of its Nugu Mini on the first day of its release on Aug. 11. The product that has similar specifications to the existing Nugu speaker is being offered for 49,900 won, a 50 percent discount from the 99,000 won sticker price.

Naver included one full year of free Naver Music service worth some 90,000 won for those who bought its Wave smart speakers. The first batch sold out in 35 minutes, the company said.

Nugu Mini and the Wave speakers are both more compact compared to other AI enabled products on the market at present. The Nugu Mini weighed in at just 219 grams with the Wave hitting 998 grams. The size makes them highly portable and user friendly.

Besides SK Telecom and Naver, Kakao, a leading Internet service company, said it will release its own Kakao Mini speaker in the third quarter of the year. The company said its product will be lighter and more affordable compared to its rivals.

The move by local companies, meanwhile, mirrors efforts undertaken by global competitors such as Amazon and Xiaomi that have released affordable AI speakers in the past. (Yonhap)