It's a reflection of Google's Search and AI advances, an answer to Alexa, an imitation of nothing else precisely and an echo of Amazon's home assistant ambitions. Google introduced it during I/O 2016, and it's what the company simply calls Google Home.
Already doing battle in cloud and advertising, Google's Home and Amazon's Echo pit the two companies against each other on another front. It's a front, more so a frontier maybe, that Amazon set out into first, but Google Home is packed with enough promise to serve a serious challenge to the Echo early on.
Chromecast has been one of the hottest consumer products since its launch day, and Google Home will build on that success, stated Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management at Google, during a presentation at I/O 2016.
"Google Home is a Wi-Fi speaker that streams music directly from the cloud so you get the highest quality playback," said Queiroz. "It will deliver rich bass and clear highs, all from a beautiful compact form factor."
Commands And Conversations
Alexa may have more original and personable name and dialog, but Google Home and its bland name may deliver the more conversational experience for users.
During his presentation, Google CEO Sundar Pichai had a conversation with the cup-sized product that showed off Google Assistant's ability to recognize contextual language.
The ability to stay on subject when users pose follow-up questions makes conversations feel much more natural than having to pose each query as a new subject.
Google Assistant's speech recognition and grasp of context is powered by Google's advances in machine learning and AI. But just as important as all that is Google Home's heritage: search.
The Siri and Alexa rival, previously called Google Now, builds on Google's "years of investment in deeply understanding users' questions," said Pichai.
"I am incredibly excited about the progress we are making with machine learning," Pichai said during the I/O 2016. "We believe the real test is whether humans can achieve a lot more with [artificial intelligence] assisting them."
Alexa has machine learning skills of her own and adjusts to users' speech patterns, but the Google Assistant appears to have the edge here based on its maker's obsession with search. Moreover, search is Google Home's biggest selling point and the feature that will set it apart from other digital assistants.
Skills: Who's Got Game?
They have a lot of the same skills, especially when it comes to streaming music. Both the Echo and Google Home can modify users' calendars, manage shopping lists, set times and accomplish a host of other basic tasks.
However, with Amazon having shared the Skills and Voice Service tool kits to developers, Alexa will continue to receive new skills, such as order a pizza or hire a car, at an increasing rate.
"Further in the future, we'll work with developers to make it possible to control things beyond the home," said Queiroz, "Like booking a car, ordering dinner, or sending flowers to mom and much, much more, all with just your voice."
While Google may not open up Google Assistant to all developers early on, the company has already established a long list of high-profile partnerships for Google Home. Some of the early partners include TicketMaster, Instacart, GrubHub, OpenTable and others.
Price And Availability
Google has yet to announce a price or release date for Google Home, though it has stated that the product will be available later this year. The Amazon Echo is available now and is priced at $180.