While Google did announce the new Android N mobile OS, Allo messaging app, Daydream VR system and Duo video calling with “Knock-Knock”…Google Home, powered by the new Google Assistant was the announcement many had been hoping for at Google I/O 2016.
Google Home is the “Amazon Echo Killer” that the technology media had been speculating about, ever since the Amazon Echo smart speaker debuted nearly a year and a half ago. And, Google Home will take advantage of Google’s new Assistant, an interactive personal assistant that can operate via voice or interactive text queries. Google Assistant will be built into many of Google’s products and services, including the Allo messaging app, and of course, Google Home. Google Assistant will understand more about you if you are “all-in” on the Google ecosystem. But in addition, the new Assistant brings the power of Google Now and its context and location-aware systems. This should prove more powerful than Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.
Google has been working with voice recognition for many years, and says that the new Google Home will take advantage of its extensive work with far-field voice recognition. People who currently use Google’s voice features tend to love them, and by that measure alone, Google Home should be a home run for the search giant. A specialized set of microphones will be embedded into Google Home to help it interpret your voice, from nearby to across the room. If Google Home is at least as accurate as the Amazon Echo, it shouldl be an impressive device.
You’ll be able to use Google Home for all of the things that you can imagine today, and Google showed off a rather perfect “family morning scenario” where Google Home helped saved the day with updating dinner reservations, playing music to wake up the kids, getting the best route for the drive to work and even the dad remembering why his son was dressed up like an astronaut. Oh, and of course Google Home shut down the lights, the TV, appliances and set the Nest thermostat to Away mode when they all left and closed the door. Google said that a limited range of functionality would be available at launch (later this year, sadly) and they would eventually open up an API to let developers and enthusiasts make Google Home do more than Google imagined. Oh, and did I mention that you’ll be able to “cast” music and video to Chromecast devices? That’s something Alexa can’t do, and that is pretty darn cool!
As for the Google Home device physically, it appears to be a relatively small device, as Mario Queiroz, Google’s VP of Product Management, brought it out on-stage and it fit easily in the palm of his hand. The device appears to be shorter, and a bit wider than the original Amazon Echo, with a minimalist design and an angled top. A single button at the back of Google Home can mute the microphones, and an array of LEDs with Google’s color palette shine through the top of Google Home, animating while you’re interacting with the device. Google Home’s base will be interchangeable, having multiple color and texture choices to fit a room’s specific decor. This is a nice touch and shows the “softer” side of Google.
And that is all we know, literally. Pricing and availability were not specifically announced, except to say that Google Home will be available “later this year”…read: holiday shopping season! We here at Smarter Home LIfe are excited to see the “always-listening” device category of home automation heat up. Will Apple introduce an always-on Siri listening device this fall? Perhaps. And what about Samsung? But more importantly, what about Nest? Why did Google seem to “beat them to the punch” with a home automation product announcement? Read our other story on this here.
As we hear more details about Google Home, you can be sure we’ll cover it for you. Stay tuned!