HUAWEI IS working on a voice assistant for the Chinese market as an alternative to Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, Siri and (smirk) Bixby.
HiAssistant, as it's unsurprisingly called (Hixxx being the naming convention for Huawei/Honor apps) has been discovered by tinkerers at XDA Developers. Politeness dictates that we should point out that the tinkerer in question, @FunkyHuawei, has hosted the files there too.
HiAssistant is, at this stage, a Chinese language voice assistant, which leverages the Kirin 970 chip with its onboard Neural Processing Unit that powers the Huawei Mate 10 Pro's camera, and is likely to be at the heart of the Huawei P20 when it arrives in a not-so-secret launch later this month.
For reference - the Kirin 970 is the one recently used to drive a car.
In fact, HiAssistant and HiVoice (the voice interface) is hidden in some new builds of Mate 10 Pro firmware. It works with natural language understanding (NLU) which means that it can glean context much better from the mish-mash of words in a sentence.
It's not that dissimilar to the way your dog might hear "Blah Blah Blah Good Dog Blah Blah Blah Walk" and know what's coming.
It will be able to control almost every function of your phone (like Samsung Bixby). It will be able to search for you using Chinese search engine Weibu (like Cortana). It will be able to make better use of your camera (much as it does in the Mate 10 Pro) like Google Lens.
XDA has said that there's no evidence of HiAssistant outside China either on the Mate 10 Pro or the P20 range. It will be a new addition to EMUI 8.1 - this being Huawei's customisation of Android, so Android Oreo 8.1.
Finally, it points out that HiAssistant is very much based on the Kirin 970 AI, and so is not going to be ported back to older or lower spec handsets - certainly not in this form.
A Chinese voice assistant is no mean feat. There are five main dialects, each of which breaks down into over 200 individual dialects. Although there's little chance it will support them all (we'd bet on Mandarin and Cantonese as most likely) it will need to be able to cope with the subtleties of a group of languages spoken by a disparate population who aren't always able to understand each other. µ
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