Google has invaded our computers, web browsers, phones, TVs, and tablets.
Now it’s coming into the home itself.
With Google Home, a Wi-Fi speaker, the company aims to have its new digital helper Google Assistant with you everywhere, not just on your phone. It’s Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo, a surprise hit that revealed a hunger for voice-controlled computers with virtual assistants living inside.
As with the Echo, Google Home is designed to allow users to control music streaming, connected appliances, and basic information like calendar appointments and weather.
Home is now available for preorder and costs $129. It is scheduled to ship in early November.
Here’s a dive into everything Home can do:
You can use the trigger phrase “OK Google” and tell Home which song you want to listen to. You can also use your voice to control volume or switch tracks.
Home works with YouTube Music, one of Google’s music subscription services. It will also work with third-party services including Spotify, Pandora, and TuneIn.
But Google has added an extra bit of smarts to music control. If you don’t remember the specific name of a song, you can use a general query to help Google identify what you’re talking about. For example, you can say, “Play that Shakira song from ‘Zootopia'” and it will know what you mean.
As for audio quality, Google says Home sounds better than any other device in the category, though we haven’t had a chance to test that claim yet.
You can ask Home anything you’d normally ask Google. It uses Google’s Knowledge Graph, which is designed to give you the direct answer to what you want. If Google doesn’t have the answer, it will read snippets from trusted sources like Wikipedia. Home can also remember your most recent query for follow-up questions.
Home integrates with Google Maps and finds locations near you and gives you traffic updates when you want to know how long it will take you to get somewhere.
A new feature called My Day is designed to update you on everything you need to know to start the day including weather, traffic updates, and your calendar appointments. It’s a daily briefing based on everything Google knows about you.
Home’s Assistant can track notes and reminders and push them to the Assistant on your new Pixel phone too. (Future Android phones will also get Assistant.)
That’s not a comprehensive list, of course, and Home will get smarter over time as more people use it and Google Assistant learns new tricks. But for now, you can expect Home to help you with everything for which you normally rely on Google.
Google Home is also designed to let you use your voice to control connected gadgets in your home. It works with Nest, Chromecast on TV, SmartThings, and a few other smart-home companies.
On Chromecast, for example, you can tell Google Home to play YouTube videos. Eventually, other partners like Netflix will support this feature. Google calls this feature “Voicecasting.”
If you have multiple Home speaker or Chromecast Audio devices connected to your speakers, you can control your entire home. Only the device nearest you will respond.
Google Home will cost $129. It will come with a free six-month trial of YouTube Red, which gives you music streaming and ad-free YouTube videos. It’s available for preorder now and is set to ship November 4.
Google Assistant will have an open developer platform launching in December. That means third-parties can build voice-controlled services into Google Assistant. For example, you can call an Uber and have a conversation with Assistant about where you want to go and what kind of car you want.
Amazon’s Alexa already allows third-party partners. Apple’s Siri does too, but it’s limited to certain categories like payments and messaging.
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