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What's the deal with HTC's new voice-controlled assistant?

HTC revealed a new voice-controlled assistant, Sense Companion, alongside its U Ultra phablet earlier today. But what's it got to offer?

Published onJanuary 12, 2017

HTC has revealed a new voice-controlled assistant, Sense Companion, alongside its U Ultra phablet earlier today. The digital assistant delivers content to a second display at the top-right of the Taiwanese manufacturer’s new device, and will provide similar functions to the likes of Google Assistant or Siri. Here’s what we know about it so far.

HTC’s Sense Companion is an AI assistant which merges voice-control and contextual suggestions help users in their daily lives. It’s a standalone product, but it also integrates with Google Assistant, meaning it doesn’t directly compete with that service.

HTC says Sense Companion can suggest that you wear warmer clothes and leave a little early from work if it’s supposed to snow, remind you to pack a power bank if you’re taking a long trip, and even recommend a restaurant when you’re away and book seats for you.

Those are just a few examples and, while interesting, they are also within the realm of what’s capable on competing products. However, HTCalso states that the Sense Companion will “get to know you better over time,” to make the device more intuitive to use.

HTC U Ultra hands-on: a major change for HTC

HTC claims that Sense Companion can learn which notifications you’re most interested in to adjust which ones you receive in the future. Similar features have already been on smartphones, like how the HUAWEI Mate 9 uses machine learning to re-organize apps and prioritize the ones that are used most frequently. It’s not yet clear how else HTCwill apply this aspect of technology but the company says it will continue to develop Sense Companion after its release, meaning new functions could be added in time.

HTC’s Sense Companion also employs the U Ultra’s four always-listening microphones for voice activation — even when the display is off. “Just say the word to take or reject incoming calls, snooze or dismiss an alarm, send messages and even begin hands-free navigation,” says HTC(the company has yet to reveal what the trigger word actually is). Additionally, Sense Companion allows users to unlock the U Ultra using just their voice.

The HTCU Ultra will be launched in March in the US and you pre-order it from today.

What are your thoughts on its new AI? Let us know in the comments.

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