GOOGLE HAS launched a glut of new features for its Google Home assistant as part of its underwhelming I/O Keynote.
The device, launched in the UK last year, will be able to offer calls, hands-free, direct from the device to any number, initially in the US, with plans to extend worldwide. Later, users will be able to tie their mobile number (or we presume Google Voice) to their account for a seamless experience.
Following the recent announcement that Google Home will recognise up to six distinct voices and accounts, this means that the phrase "call mom" will be tailored to each voice it hears, and able to call the mother, not the mother-in-law (or whatever).
Although this doesn't go as far as the Amazon Echo Buttugly with video calling, which launched last week, it's perhaps an easier win for Google, as it requires nothing but a software upgrade to completely replace a fixed line phone. Which could be another death knell for the traditional services.
At the moment, that missing piece of not assigning a phone number to the Google Home will prevent that, but it's a taste of the beginning of the end.
For us in the UK, it's "don't hold your breath" time. Google Hangouts has been capable of free calls in the US and Canada for several years and has never expanded,
The other big news for Google Home users is the arrival of "proactive assistance". This doesn't mean that she'll start talking to you without permission (yet) but her little lights will light up and you'll be able to say "what's up Google?" and she'll tell you what's on her mind, such as, in the example, that the traffic is slow so you might want to leave for your meeting early.
Also new, Spotify Free, something Alexa definitely doesn't have, and a number of new US streaming services, Soundcloud, Deezer and most importantly perhaps, Bluetooth streaming.
Adding calendar entries by voice is also a much needed addition that will bring Home closer to Alexa.
For those with Chromecast devices, the integration will tighten further with you being able to ask to see something, such as a calendar, and it will be brought up on nearest TV screen. Which is just so future. µ
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