UPDATE: Google Home is starting to ship out to those that pre-ordered a unit. Android Police confirmed there’s was on the way and scheduled to arrive on November 5. Of course – if you’re in the UK you will have to wait a bit longer, as Google has not yet announced when Google Home will be coming to the UK. Let’s hope it drops soon, though!
Google is interested in a lot of things these days outside of search: mobile, VR, artificial intelligence, cars and making its own gear like the Pixel line of devices. And now Google Home, which is, well, a kind of smart-home accessory that you can talk to and it will perform basic commands like streaming or playing media.
Google announced Google Home during the keynote speech at its annual Google I/O 2016 expo. It also introduced Android N, its new Daydream VR platform, a couple of new messaging applications and a whole lot more besides. But here we’re going to be talking about Google Home — which is kind of like a baby version of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Google Home is very much a look into the not too distant future. Android — and Apple and Windows — will soon move beyond phones — transcend them, if you will. And this will be achieved using technology like Google Now, Google Assistant and Google’s deep, personal knowledge of you which it derives from your search history. Pretty soon these “machines” will be thinking for you, telling you you’ve run out of milk, and reminding you to connect with friends and family.
Here’s what Google said about Google Home on its blog:
“With a simple “Ok Google” you can play songs, artists, radio stations, your favorite playlists and more from Google Play Music, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn and YouTube Music with additional services like iHeartRadio coming soon. You can also play a podcast while making pasta or listen to today’s news while tying your shoes. And if you just want to stream audio directly from your phone, you can cast music to Google Home from 100+ Chromecast-enabled apps on your Android or iOS device.
“Google Home’s smart audio design integrates a high-excursion driver with a dual passive radiator design that delivers crystal-clear highs and deep lows for Hi-Fi sound that streams over WiFi. That means a lot of big sound from a small package. Even while you jam out to music, it can easily hear you from across the room, thanks to two omnidirectional microphones and neural beamforming.”
This has been shown in films time and time again ever since the 1960s. But now it is a reality. Look how far phones and computers have come in the past decade. Now, apply this to Google’s already-here AI and pretty soon the intelligence that powers Google Home will start to resembled something truly from the annals of science-fiction. This is an important device.
It’s also very similar to Amazon Echo. And by similar we mean Google has basically copied the idea lock, stock and barrell. But because Google Home uses Google services it is likely to be a hell of a lot more useful than Amazon’s Echo, which relies solely on Amazon services. So, yeah, Google just basically one-upped Amazon Echo big time.
It’s not just Amazon and Google that are having a stab at the smart-speaker space in 2016. Apple is also rumoured to be working on something very similar that will be powered by its Siri assistant. According to reports, Apple will confirm plans for a Siri-powered speaker at WWDC 2016.
In order to make sure the damn thing works, however, Apple will have to open up Siri to developers — something it is all set to do at WWDC 2016. Once this is done, Siri will grow and grow and one day might actually become useful.
Apple has held of doing this for a very long time, citing security issues, but the rise of Amazon and Google in the burgeoning AI space, which is beginning with these “smart-speakers” has likely forced the iPhone-maker’s hand. In order to make these AI assistant’s viable, you need developer intervention. Siri must learn new things and be allowed to develop, and the only way to do that is if she is opened up to developers.
Here’s six points on what makes Google Home tick.
Google Home: What It Is & What It Does
Google Home is a smart-home (or connected home) appliance. It’s smart, in that you can talk to it and ask it questions, but it can also perform basic tasks like playing music and media, as well as casting things to your HDTV.
The device itself is a neat looking thing too, which kind of reminds me of a baby version of Big Hero 6. Google has been deliberately minimalist with the design, so the Home hub can sit in almost any environment around the home and blend right in.
Search is obviously at the core of Google Home. And nobody does search better than Google. Once you have a Google Home unit you set it up by signing in with your Google account. This then links your Google Now profile to it, as well as bringing across all of Google’s knowledge about you and your search history. So right off the bat Home will know A LOT about you, which is creepy as hell but kind of useful if you’re interested in this type of thing.
Home is powered by Google Assistant, an AI knowledge machine that Google has poured billions into over the years. The technology is still kind of basic at present, but when used in conjunction with Google Now it can perform a variety of tasks — sending messages, reading emails, setting alarms, playing music, casting media to supported devices — and all through just speaking to it.
Google Home is the first step towards having a virtual butler. In 20 years time is it very easy to see an evolved version of this technology powering walking and talking Android robots. I say 20 years but it’s probably more like 10. This is how fast things will move in AI — and that is kind of scary. Especially if you listen to Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking.
“Computing is evolving beyond phones, and people are using it in context across many scenarios, be it in their television, be it in their car, be it something they wear on their wrist or even something much more immersive,” said Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai.
Google hasn’t discussed pricing or availability just yet, but we’d guess the device will cost anywhere between £150 – £200, though it could be less. It’ll be interesting to see how good the speaker actually is; Amazon’s Echo is notoriously bad. But if Google can match Sonos Play One’s quality — or thereabouts — and keep the price relatively accessible it could well have a big hit on its hands.
Amazon Echo sold well, proving there is definitely a market for these types of devices. Google is arguably a bigger and more respected tech-brand than Amazon, so it stands to reason, should it get pricing right, that Google WILL sell a lot of these things.
Now we just need to know how much Google Home will cost and when you can buy one. As soon as we know we’ll update this piece accordingly.