Debatably the most anticipated product announced at the Made by Google Hardware announcement is the release of Google Home. The product was first revealed May 2016 at Google I/O, the company’s developer conference, but until now the company had kept all the features and tech specs of this connected home product under wrap. Giving Apple and Amazon a run for their money, Google Home is a smart speaker users can talk to and control elements within their connected home.
Google Home acts as an assistant, a music hub, and a smart home controller all in one. Rivaling the Amazon Echo, and the similar, yet under lock and key home automation product Apple is working on, Google Home can hold a conversation with users, connect to other devices, and of course, as a speaker should, play music.
Conversational Voice Control
The smart speaker allows for a dialogue to take place, rather than a one-way conversation of commands from user to device. Complete with conversational capabilities, the speaker uses context from previous questions to inform subsequent answers. As CNET noted, it “Can respond to you in a much more active way than Alexa”.
For example, if users ask a question about an individual using his name in one sentence, and then a follow-up question about that same individual without stating his name but instead referring to the person in a form of ‘he’, Google Home will understand that the originally named person is being referenced. There are still certain words users should use to get the speaker to perform as intelligently as possible, but the AI is certainly advanced compared to other products on the market.
Using voice controls, the speaker can connect to a user’s Pixel phone allowing him or her to do tasks on their phone hand free. Powered by Google’s Search Engine, Google Home has the power to provide a truly connected home living environment like never before. Using voice commands, Google Home can give users tailored morning briefings of their schedule, give an overview of traffic conditions and early departure recommendations, and provide any other news on the Internet that is of use to the user.
Smart Speaker Capabilities
Using voice controls or the capacitive touch panel users can stream music from Google Play, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and other popular third-party apps. For users close up and using hands to control the device, they’ll see a series of LED lights that shine through the surface showing the current volume level, as well as have the option to tap and start or stop music. Of course, all the music options can also be controlled with voice commands.
As a smart speaker, Google Home does more than just play music on demand. To start with, users don’t even have to know the exact title of a song in order to get their desired song to play, as the speaker can recognize song title-related prompts and, as any Google device should, search, to help you discover the song you want to play.
Additionally, users can ask the speaker to play music from any Chromecast Audio streamer plugged into the speaker, from the Chromecast video streamer plugged into a TV, or from any Google Cast-enabled speaker. Essentially users can sync Google Home with all of their devices for full connected home audio control. Multidevice audio is a major advantage over the Amazon Echo, although Amazon has suggested similar capabilities in upcoming upgrades or models.
Early demos of the speaker sound quality show promise of a well-designed device that delivers an exception audio experience considering the price and all the other smart features built in.
Connected Home Experience
At its baseline, Google Home can act as a smart home control hub. Currently, the Home will work with Nest, SmartThings, Philips Hue, and IFTTT, the latter of which could potentially allow users to control just about anything they wish. Of note, at launch Alexa’s first IFTTT channel it only had prepackaged options, while the Home doesn’t limit users’ choices. At minimum users can set and change thermostats and control lighting, but further updates and compatibility expansions could allow users to do much more. The fact that the Home provides a single point of control anyone can use, makes it much more functional than most standard smart home hubs on the market.
For expanded ease of use and capabilities, multiple homes may be purchased, which won’t cause any headaches. The home is designed to be in conjunction with other Home speakers, and will automatically react to the closest voice commands, eliminating the hassle of duplication with voice commands. The fact that the Home provides a single point of control anyone can use, makes it much more functional than most standard smart home hubs on the market.
Google Home will be available for purchase starting November 4th and is set at a mere $130 price point. The purchase of a Home will also include six free months of YouTube Red, which costs $10 per month normally.