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Google Wants Its Home Hub to Control the House, Challenging the Amazon Echo Show

October 9, 2018, 5:02 PM UTC

Google is pitching its new Home Hub as a device for people to manage and control their internet-connected thermostats, doorbells, and other smart appliances.

The search giant said Tuesday during a media event in New York City that the Hub will cost $149 and will be available at brick-and-mortar stores like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart on Oct. 22. People can pre-order starting Tuesday from Google’s online store. Google also debuted its Pixel Slate tablet during the event.

The Home Hub resembles a tablet computer built into a stand that can sit on top of a person’s bedroom nightstand or kitchen table. It has a 7-inch touch display screen and works with voice-activated Google Assistant, so people can ask the Hub to do tasks like set reminders, alarms, check the weather, or ask for directions.

Google (GOOG) is heavily emphasizing that the device should act as the central control for all of the smart-gadgets people might have in their homes. It can control various internet-connected devices like Phillps Hue lights, Google’s Nest thermostats, and August’s smart-door locks.

Similar to Facebook’s (FB) new Portal video conferencing device, which was released on Monday, the Home Hub displays can be used as a digital photo album, and it uses Google’s machine-learning technology to filter out blurry photos or random pictures of receipts from displaying among more aesthetically pleasing images.

Facebook also bragged that its Portal device could control Internet connected gadgets through its integration with Amazon’s (AMZN) Alexa voice-activated digital assistant.

Although the Home Hub seems similar in appearance to Facebook’s Portal and Amazon’s Echo Show, Google did not install a camera in the device, which means it won’t be able to do video calls. Google executives said they chose not to install a camera so people can feel comfortable having it placed in private spaces like their bedrooms.

The decision to not have a camera embedded in the Hub comes amid several data privacy blunders from major tech companies like Facebook and Google itself.

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Like Facebook’s Portal, the device can play music from services like Spotify and Pandora. Unlike the Portal, the Hub works with Google’s own streaming service, YouTube Music, and can play videos from YouTube.

Google’s debut of a gadget that can control web-connected devices comes weeks after Amazon unveiled new smart gadgets built for the home, like a web-connected clock and microwave.