Harman Kardon's voice-activated speaker, with Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant built-in, launched last week and is currently US-Only. Does this mean that it will only work in the US, or can it be useful for us on this side of the pond as well?
The first thing you notice about the Invoke when you open the box is that it feels solid, it is not plasticky like the Echo Dot from Amazon. The Invoke is a speaker first, and the sound quality from the device is amazing, a single speaker can easily fill a large room without distorting or making the output sound tinny.
But, you didn't come here to find out about whether the speaker itself was any good (we'll have a review for that after we have had more time taking it through its paces). The question that brought you here was likely along the lines of "If this is a US-only device, is can it be used outside the US?" or "Will the Cortana features of the Invoke be useful in Ireland?"
The answer to these questions is a resounding Yes.
In order to set up the device, you need to take the following steps.
Step 1: Plug the Invoke into the mains.
The Invoke is powered by an AC adaptor, rather than by Micro-USB or USB-C cable, and since this is currently a US-only device the included AC adaptor only has a US plug attached. Luckily, the device is not limited to the 110-volts that the US uses for mains electricity. As it supports 110-240V electricity it will work perfectly fine over here with a travel adaptor attached.
Step 2: Use Cortana to set up the speaker.
We know that it may sound like Inception's dream within a dream, but you will need to use Cortana to set up Cortana on the Invoke speaker. However, as Cortana is so widely available you can complete this step from an iOS, Android, Windows 10 smartphone, tablet or Windows 10 PC.
Start by entering the device setup page, on Windows 10 this will prompt you to download a Cortana Device Setup app to complete the process - Android and iOS users can complete this within the Cortana app on their own platform*
After reviewing the licence agreement from Harman Kardon, Cortana will begin the search for the device and when the lights on the Invoke match the pattern on the app, you are ready to start the pairing process. Note: If they don't match, press and hold the mute button on the Invoke, it will prompt you that it is ready for setup.
Sign in to your Microsoft Account, Invoke will need permissions to your account in order to be most useful - for reminders, contacts, making and receiving Skype calls, in addition to access to your Notebook (the online record of permissions that you have granted and denied Cortana).
Next, select your address. This can be done by dragging the map to a specific location or searching for your address. Using Bing Maps, the setup app allows you to select specific addresses or locations in Ireland - much better than the Amazon Echo that would only allow you to select Ireland via a hacky method of selecting O'Connell Street or some other main thoroughfare of the capital. Using this detailed address, Cortana can give you detailed local weather, traffic or local business information that the Echo cannot in Ireland.
After selecting your location, the setup process will look for Cortana devices nearby and you can select yours and then add the Network that you would like to join.
If this is the first time that you have setup your Invoke, it may need to update its firmware. This may take a few moments and require a reboot - a positive chime will confirm success or a vocal message that something went wrong and direct you back to step one to restart the configuration.
Step 3: While setup completes, take it for a spin
Once your connection is set up and working, the final stages of the process invite you to take some baby steps with Cortana, like setting your preferred music provider (in Ireland, that would be Spotify or TuneIn, as iHeartRadio is a US-Only service) and perform simple tasks "What is the weather?", "Set a reminder", "Create an appointment", etc.
These are all steps to get the speaker used to your voice and get you acquainted with some of the tasks that you can achieve with Cortana on your speaker.
Over the next while we will continue to test the Invoke speaker and provide further updates and coverage of if or how the device can be useful in Ireland.
* [UPDATE: 28 November]
For Android and iOS you will need to install the Cortana app on your device, this might be restricted to the US App Store / Play Store depending on your phone. Installing the Cortana app may require temporarily changing the region of your phone to access the US Store or downloading the appropriate APK from a trusted source (Android only).
Cortana is not currently available in the Mac App Store and therefore a supported device, or an installation of Windows 10 via Parallels or Boot Camp would be required.