OK Google, it’s time to take aim at Alexa. Google has announced that consumers can now preorder its Google Home digital assistant for $129, with a ship date of November 4. First revealed at Google I/O in May, Google Home will compete with Amazon’s surprisingly popular Echo product line for voice-activated control of the smart home. The price tag is attractive, and it has some features the Echo doesn’t, but Google still has a lot of work to do to catch Amazon.
Like the Echo, Google Home can recognize natural language and answer simple questions when it detects a “wake” word (“OK Google” for the Google Home, “Alexa” for the Echo). Google has a leg up on Amazon in this regard, as it arguably has the world’s best search engine, and the company has been working on speech recognition for many years longer than Amazon.
One of the most impressive things about Google’s demo today was the Google Assistant’s ability to respond to related follow-up voice commands without needing to say “OK Google” again. During the demo, Google product manager Rishi Chandra asked, “What’s Adele’s real name?” Google Assistant provided the answer. Chandra then said, “How many Grammys has she won?” And it responded with an answer from Wikipedia. With the Echo, you need to repeat “Alexa” with every request.
Google Home also be able to stream music and podcasts, report the news, set timers, make shopping lists that will appear on your phone, and more. In addition to YouTube Music, you’ll also be able to link your Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio accounts, and specify a default so you don’t have to specify “on Spotify” every time you request a song or album. One area that Google has a significant advantage over Amazon is Google Home’s ability to link to Google’s Chromecast and Google Cast media streamers.
Google Home’s ability to link to Chromecast and Google Cast hardware could give it an early leg up over AAmazon’s Echo.
So not only will you be able to use voice commands to cast YouTube (and soon Netflix) videos to your TV via a Chromecast, you’ll also be able to have multiple Google Home and Google Cast speakers synchronize music playback throughout your home. The Echo can’t currently connect to video devices, and you can’t link multiple Echos together for synchronized music playback.
Where Amazon leads
Amazon does have a significant lead in third-party product integration. Google announced Philips Hue lighting, Samsung SmartThings, and Nest Labs as launch partners, but it said its third-party SDK (software development kit) won’t be ready until sometime next year.
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