GOOGLE HAS formally taken the wraps off its new home controller, Google Home. The device was trailed at Google I/O earlier this year, and will compete directly with the more established Alexa ecosystem from Amazon by using the newly announced Google Assistant AI which succeeds Google Now.
The always-listening hands-free helper, which has more than a passing resemblance to Echo, will be available in the US on 4 November, before coming to the UK sometime next year. Apple is also said to be working on a similar system, but plans to invent it first later.
The Google Assistant software, which we got our first real glimpse of with the launch of AI messenger app Google Allo, is able to chat in a slightly more realistic way than we’ve seen before, and can already tie in with a wide variety of products through the Works with Next and IFTTT ecosystems.
Commands are triggered by the familiar 'OK Google' keywords which switches on the two microphones to voice input. Google Assistant is more than capable of understanding contextual follow-up questions, but they all have to be prefaced with the wake-words.
'OK Google, when is Suicide Squad playing near me?'
'OK Google, what’s its IMDB rating?'
'OK Google, book me two tickets.'
All of which breaks the flow slightly.
As is the norm with Google, there’s no API at launch and third-party functionality is limited to invited partners, but given that one of those partners is IFTTT there’s no real reason to worry.
At $129 it’s slightly cheaper than Echo, and has fewer microphones and a more basic speaker. None of these is a showstopper, but early adopters have said that it acquits itself more than adequately. A WiFi connection is provided by a dual-band 802.11ac chip.
The device comes in a variety of base colours to complement their surroundings, and are fully interchangeable if you have the urge to switch your colour scheme on a whim.
Home was launched yesterday as part of a package which also includes Google's first standalone VR headset, Daydream View, and the long-awaited Google Pixel phones, which also have the Google Assistant feature. µ
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