Google has let Amazon basically own the connected home assistant market for the last year and a half with the Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices. Now, Google is leveraging its extensive natural language processing engine to launch Google Home, a connected hub that brings voice commands to your house. Google has also been working on making its system of voice commands more conversational, which it now calls Google Assistant.
Google has had voice search capabilities built into Android phones for years at this point. You can even trigger searches with the “OK Google” hotword. However, this is connected to your phone, which is a personal device with your own apps, settings, and data. A home assistant like the newly announced Google Home (and Amazon Echo) is intended to provide voice features to anyone in the family from anywhere in a room.
According to CEO Sundar Pichai, Google is not as far behind in the home assistant market as everyone seems to think. The company has a huge wealth of data and its natural language processing engine is particularly good at understanding context. This is what gives the upgraded Google Assistant the ability to be more conversational. For example, you can ask Assistant about movies that are playing, then narrow it down, ask about reviews, and Assistant might ask you if you’d like to buy tickets.
Google Assistant is essentially the chatbot that was rumored several times in recent months, but it’s not just a bot. Assistant will live in multiple Google products like the new messaging app Allo and Google Home. Google Home will really be the showcase for Assistant with its focus on voice interaction.
The Google Home hardware looks like a small vase with an angled top. The bottom section houses a speaker that can be used to play music in addition to providing voice interaction. The cover on the bottom half is also interchangeable to it can match your decor. Like the OnHub router, Google wants you to be able to put the Home out where people can see it and it will work better.
Google Home is a part of the company’s automation push with devices like the OnHub and Nest family. There haven’t been many developments in this area lately — the OnHub doesn’t even have the automation features promised at launch. Perhaps Google Home is what the company is waiting for. It will be able to interact with lighting systems, Nest products, home alarms, and more. The goal is to automate everyday tasks so people can take care of them by voice. Because it’s powered by Google, this device will also bring instant voice search to any room.
Google Home isn’t available yet, and we don’t know how much it will cost. There’s a sign-up page where you can register your interest. Google says you’ll be able to get it this fall.
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