Baidu launched the raven H RMB 1,699 AI-enabled smart speaker it hopes will become a “definitive product” worldwide at the company’s World Conference in Beijing on Thursday. Plus there were two “one more thing” announcements of future products: the raven R six-axis robotic arm and speaker with emotional intelligence, plus the raven Q, a small robot which uses an array of sensors and simultaneous localization and mapping.

The raven R (渡鸦R) does indeed look completely different to its competitors, resembling a stack of children’s toy bricks rather than a smart home hub. Made of a high-performance polyamide, the colorful square tower has a base roughly 10x10cm which holds the speaker designed by Tymphany of Denmark (formerly Peerless). The top layer of the speaker tilts upwards as the inlaid dots contain LEDs which form a display of sorts. This layer is also a touch-based input device like a remote control and can be lifted off the stack entirely, attached by magnets. This remote can control the base speaker unit plus all other smart home devices linked to it.

Baidu acquired Raven Tech in February this year and this release is the first product range that has emerged, making it Baidu’s own first AI device for the mass market. Working in collaboration with Stockholm-based Teenage Engineering, a consumer electronics maker, the Raven range is hoped to be classed as “definitive.” Jesse Lyu (Liu Cheng), Raven founder and now general manager of Baidu’s Intelligent Hardware Unit, introduced the product as being definitive in the way that the first iPhone became the definitive smartphone whose form factor all others followed.

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Frank Hersey

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...