Google has announced plans for a voice-enabled, connected home device that lets users search for information, ask for directions, and play music, much like Amazon’s rival Echo device.
Google Home, which was unveiled at Google’s annual developer conference on Wednesday, is Google’s entry to an increasingly important fight to be the hub for the home. Amazon, in particular, has a head start with its Echo device, which has gained strong momentum since its introduction last year.
Google’s device will go on sale at some unspecified date in 2016. There was no mention of the price; Echo, however, costs $179.99.
Google Home is a small enough to fit in your hand and almost looks like a salt and pepper shaker. Like Amazon Echo, it is designed to sit in your kitchen and home.
Also similar to Echo’s Alexa, people can use their voices to search for information using simple language. The device is powered by Google’s new voice recognition technology, Google Assistant, which responds back with answers.
“It’s like having your personal Google around the house,” said Mario Quieroz from the Google Chromecast team.
Beyond Google queries and playing music, Google Home will eventually be able to turn off and on lights, and control home thermostats. The company is also working with companies like Uber to let users request rides through the device. Users can also retrieve personalized information from their Gmail account, such as travel itineraries.
One feature that Google Home includes that Amazon Echo doesn’t yet have is the ability for users to choose the speakers they want to play music from. For example, you could indicate that you want to play a particular song in your living room instead of your bedroom.
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As mentioned above, Google Home and Assistant will go head to head with Amazon Echo and its assistant, Alexa. Google CEO Sundar Pichai graciously credited Amazon “for creating excitement in space,” but it apparently isn’t enough to keep Google from trying to play catch up.
Furthermore, Echo and Alexa have a significant head start when it comes to wooing developers to integrate with its device.
But Google may have one advantage over Amazon. It has offered voice search for well over a decade and therefore may have more refined voice recognition than Amazon’s Alexa.