Artificial intelligence is revolutionary. Even though governments around the world have started budgeting for AI, homes are not getting smarter at a revolutionary pace. This is partly because the R&D cost of making home appliances smarter is still very high. The rest of the blame is on the tech giants for their snobbery against interoperability. So Siri only talks to Apple products, Google is strictly “Home” and Alexa is mediating Amazon partnerships with other brands.
LG seems to have struck a deal with Google and its voice-assistant has found its way into the South Korean company’s latest speakers. LG recently launched a new line of smart speakers modeled on its AI platform, ThinQ. The star of line-up is the WK7 smart speaker, followed by PK3, 5 and 7. I spent a few cozy weeks with the leader of the pack and here’s what I think.
It’s black, cylindrical and well-rounded. Some would call it classic, others would call it unimaginative. I would say it's sophisticated.
It’s not a party speaker that you carry in your backpack. The LG WK7 is a solid 2-kg device that is meant to stay at home. It does not have a battery and needs to be plugged in at all times. But once you find its perfect place—I put it on a corner shelf in my living room—the bulky speaker blends in with both traditional and quirky interiors. In my opinion, it looks better than the Amazon Echo Plus (Rs 14,900). But I must confess that I like the design of the Google Home speaker (Rs 9,900) the best.
The WK7’s flat, circular top has the standard touch-sensitive controls: volume, play/pause, function (for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) and Google Assistant activation. But you will hardly need to use them. The speaker, once plugged in, is always listening to you; unless, of course, you press the tiny mute button on the side to make it stop.
The WK7 is extremely responsive. During one of my several tests, I stood about 20 feet away from the speaker and played music on my TV before I called out to the Google Assistant – it caught my sing-song “Ok Google” and “Hey Google” impressive eight out of 10 times.
The only problem was that half the time I got a standard reply: “Sorry, I don’t know how to help with that yet”. Her, the Google lady that I thought I had befriended, didn’t seem to know much. She is getting smarter, albeit one command at a time. You can always talk about the weather.
The speaker is great, though, for people whose homes are truly smart. It can help them control door locks and lights, Google-powered TVs, and even refrigerators and washing machines from LG’s ThinQ platform.
The specialty of WK7 is that it listens to you, very intently. The strictly-business conversations can make daily chores easy. And when the relationship gets overly transactional, you can always ask Google to tell you a joke.
The LG WK7 gets its sound from UK-based Meridian Technologies. The 30W drivers bring out a mighty impressive output with sufficient base (deep, not very powerful), clear mids and satisfactory highs. It’s also loud enough to fill a large room. Switch it on at a party and let your guests play with it--it’s the true test of the speaker’s abilities. I promise you, the #GoogleFails will be epic once people start talking over each other. But you’ll still love how much the speaker can catch.
The LG WK7 is a good speaker and a good listener. It’s not the product that makes a smart home, but one that completes it. I would ideally recommend to buy it if you have other smart products the speaker can communicate with—at least a compatible smart TV—but with a price slash of Rs 10,000, the LG WK7 for Rs 17,900 (on Amazon) is cheaper than the Sonos One (Alexa, Rs 25,300) and just Rs 3,000 more expensive than the Amazon Echo Plus (Rs 14,990). If you like LG home appliances and want to eventually build a smart home, it’s a good product and a good time to buy it.