Lily: The 1st smart speaker that teaches Chinese


Lily is a voice-controlled smart speaker that lets you have interactive conversations with an AI system in order to easily learn Chinese without using flash cards or having to take a class.

It translates in real-time and has various learning levels- from beginner to advanced- along with voice games for fun learning. If you do happen to pronounce a word incorrectly, it even does pronunciation correction and features an app that lets you see written words. It sounds, and somewhat looks, like a new type of voice-assistant, such as Amazon’s Echo.


But, there are some flaws and drawbacks in design and function that you should know about before you decide to support this project. 

Review and Discussion – Is it worth it?

Much like other voice-controlled systems, Lily has a touchpad for manual controls, which seems really helpful. However, the controls are rather complicated. Want to make it “wake up” or pause? That requires a certain number of taps. Want to turn the volume down and not up? You’ll have to remember whether to make a clockwise or counterclockwise motion.

Because of the control system, it may not be the best choice for elderly people, those who aren’t tech-savvy, or small children.


Lily uses a voice-controlled AI system that the company designed. This means that it uses something other than the tried-and-true Cortana or Alexa software. This could be a good thing, because the company did try to specialize the AI software and the audio hardware in order to translate other languages to Chinese.

However, this is the first version of this AI, which means that much like early versions of Amazon and Google’s voice assistants, there will be bugs and problems. 

In case you’re wondering “does it only speak Chinese?”, the answer is yes.

But, they do plan on integrating more languages into the Lily sometime after this campaign is finished and rewards have been fulfilled. They’ve said that the first two new ones will be Spanish and French. You’ll get the new languages along with a software update for free. There are a few drawbacks to this. First, there’s no word on other languages, just Spanish and French, and there’s no date stated as to when they’ll be available. Secondly, if you’ve ever owned a computer or cell phone, then you most likely know that software updates often lead to crashes and bugs. There are frequent updates released to fix the problems caused by the last update. So, this could be really annoying. 

While the company seems to be attempting to create a voice-assistant similar to Alexa or Siri that helps you learn to speak Chinese, they admit that they fall short in that endeavor.

The company states that Lily isn’t as “versatile” as other voice-command AIs on the market, some of which have 20,000 skills. This means that there are a lot of things that Echo can do that Lily can’t. The company’s goal with this product is to teach people Chinese, some of which it seems that people would have learned while navigating a voice-controlled AI system with loads of features and commands, all spoken in Chinese.

However, the developers of Lily must not have thought so, limiting what you can do with it. (And, maybe what you learn, as well.)


Using Lily is a great idea when you’re at home. But, one big flaw in both the product and its concept is that you’re not likely to carry a bulky speaker with you wherever you go. The idea behind the Lily is to learn through immersion, by constantly speaking and hearing the language. This doesn’t work as well if you’re rarely home, can’t use it on a lunch break, on the way home, on walks, etc. There is an app, but it’s secondary to the device, which seems very counter-productive. 

If you’re looking for a device specifically to use at home whose only function is to teach you Chinese, Lily is probably a great device for you. But, if you leave your house a lot, it’s not going to do you a lot of good. It’s insistence on using software updates to introduce new content will likely be a pain. And, if you’re looking for a voice-controlled assistant, like the Amazon Echo, this product probably isn’t for you.