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Harman Hooks Up With Cortana

Harman International will tap the burgeoning smart-speaker market this fall with the launch of the Harman Kardon Invoke, a premium, voice-activated Echo-like device.

Perhaps more striking than its cylindrical metallic design is Harman’s selection of personal virtual assistant. The Samsung-owned business has thrown in with Microsoft’s Cortana, just as its South Korean parent has given rise to Bixby, the Cloud-based cyber brains of its new Galaxy S8 flagship phones.

According to Harman lifestyle audio division president Michael Mauser, “Voice-enabled technology is the future; by teaming up with Microsoft, we’re delivering on our promise of elevating a connected life through smart technology, superior sound and the stunning design that is Harman Kardon’s hallmark.”

The partnership provides Invoke users with hands-free Skype calling, and offers “deep integration” with Microsoft’s suite of knowledge and productivity tools.

“We are excited to partner with Harman Kardon to create a speaker that combines premium audio and stylish design with the intelligence of Cortana,” said Jordi Ribas, Microsoft’s AI products corporate VP. “This is our next step in bringing Cortana to even more devices to help users be more productive wherever they are.”

The speaker itself features 360-degree sound emitted from three woofers and three tweeters; far-field voice technology that picks up commands through seven embedded microphones; smart-home control through Cortana; and is wrapped in sleek metallic speaker cabinet that will be available in black or white when the product ships to Microsoft Stores and other select retailers this fall.