Lenovo Smart Clock adds an AI-powered, contextually aware alarm


Remember the Lenovo Smart Clock? It’s a miniature speaker with a 5-inch display tailor-made for bedside nightstands. It’s powered by Google Assistant, meaning a voice command is all it takes to kick off timers, news briefings, recipes, and more. And it’s becoming even more capable thanks to an over-the-air update.

The latest Smart Clock firmware, which began rolling out globally today, introduces a new alarm option called Impromptu. According to Google, it plays a ringtone that’s contextually sensitive to factors like the time of day and weather. For instance, if an alarm goes off early in the morning and the outside temperature is less than 50 degrees, Impromptu might play this ringtone:


A Google spokesperson tells VentureBeat that there aren’t any plans to bring Impromptu to other smart displays in the near future.

Google’s Magenta open source project supplied the machine learning algorithm that underpins Impromptu. As you’ll recall, Magenta was begun by researchers and engineers from Google Brain, Google’s AI research division, with the goal of developing tools that allow artists and musicians to extend their processes and novel machine learning algorithms that generate songs, images, drawings, and more.

Alongside Impromptu, the Smart Clock’s automatic brightness setting has been fine-tuned, and a new visual card — a music recommendation card — now occupies the home screen, doubling as a playlist shortcut. Lastly, users can now exercise more granular control over how long alarms last (up to a maximum duration of 60 minutes).

Smart Clock software updates have arrived at a steady clip since the smart speaker launched in early June. In August, it gained a feature that enables it to double as a digital photo frame, sourcing pictures from Google Photos. Around the same time, Continued Conversation came to Google Assistant on the Smart Clock, letting users make multiple requests without having to say the wake phrase “Hey, Google” after the first turn.

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The Smart Clock might not be the most capable smart display on the block, but we were impressed in our review of its predecessor — the Lenovo Smart Display — by its robust support for YouTube. (If you’ve got the $40-a-month YouTube TV, you can also say “OK Google, play ABC on YouTube TV” to watch live television, or ask Google to replay your favorite shows.) It boasts passive tweeters that allow it to generate rich sound, and like other displays powered by Google Assistant, it provides a visual snapshot each day of reminders, upcoming calendar appointments, and more.

Smart display adoption remains on the upswing. Voicebot and Voicify reported that smart displays reached 13.2% adoption (8.7 million units) among smart speaker owners in the second half of 2018, a 558% uptick from 1.3 million units in January 2018. And Canalys estimates that in Q3 of this year, the product category grew 500% globally to reach 6.3 million units, with Amazon nabbing second place with 2.2 million devices sold.



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