Google’s Internet-connected speaker just got a bit more powerful.
The search giant said Wednesday that Google Home, which debuted last year, would now let people make phone calls by using their voice to automatically dial. Google announced the news during its annual Google I/O conference for developers in Mountain View, Calif.
Additionally, all phone calls made from Google Home to conventional landline phones will be free, said Rishi Chandra, Google vice president of product management of its Home products. Now when people ask their Google Home speaker to “call mom,” the phone will automatically call their mother, Chandra said, nor will they have to download any additional apps to make such calls.
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Google Home, which is powered by Google Assistant voice-activated software, will come with a private phone number, but people will have the option to link the device to their mobile phone numbers, Chandra said.
The speaker will also be able to recognize who in a household is talking so that the device can automatically dial the correct person. If both a mother and father ask the speaker to call their respective mothers, for example, the speaker will be able to do so because it recognizes their voices and knows that they have different parents.
The ability to make voice-activated phone calls is similar to a new feature that Amazon recently debuted for its competing Echo web-connected speaker. Amazon currently has 70% of the home speaker market while Google has 23.8%, according to research firm eMarketer.
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Chandra also said that Google’s Echo speaker would proactively notify people of things like traffic delays that could impact their daily lives. If people have an important event logged in their Google Calendar app, the speaker will inform them that a traffic delay could make them late and that they should leave earlier than expected.
The Echo speaker can also sync with Google’s Chromecast streaming service so that people can ask the speaker to display weather updates or play music on their televisions, Chandra said.