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Naver unveils new AI speakers with character designs

South Korean internet giant Naver on Tuesday unveiled a new artificial intelligence voice assistant speaker designed in the shape of two main characters from its mobile messenger Line.

Dubbed “Friends,” the smart speaker comes in two versions, each resembling Line messenger’s Brown, a brown bear, and Sally, a yellow chick.

Naver's Friends smart speaker (Naver)
Naver's Friends smart speaker (Naver)

The speaker runs on Clova, the AI-powered voice assistant platform co-developed by Naver and Line. Friends is designed to be portable unlike other standard AI speakers. It weighs only 378 grams and is able to operate for five consecutive hours on a full charge.

Friends is priced at 129,000 won ($114) and will officially launch on Oct. 26. Naver will offer the speaker and one year of unlimited streaming on Naver Music as part of a promotional package priced at 99,000 won, the firm said.

Naver’s subsidiary Line Corp. is planning to launch the same character-based speakers in Japan by the year’s end. It cannot disclose a launch timetable for other markets as of now, said a Line representative.

Alongside Friends, Naver is preparing to release a standard smart speaker called Wave that is similar to Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home. In Korea, Kakao, which operates the country’s dominant mobile messenger KakaoTalk, is also preparing to launch its own AI-powered speaker Kakao Mini.

By Sohn Ji-young (