The Google Home hub is a new product from Google that, among many other things, hopes to promote Google Assistant just as much as any of the other products Google announced today.
The hub is able to control music playback, give you updates on your trip to work, help you check out movie times and even buy movie tickets, and much more. It’s a direct competitor to the in-home hub from Amazon, called Alexa, and it manages to enter the race with a cheaper price tag, but not outfitted with many “skills,” which is apparently changing in the future.
At the launch event, Google made it possible for publications to get some hands-on, or voice-on, time with the Google Home, to help get an idea for how it will work, what it looks like in the real world, and if it’s worth that $129 price tag.
The results seem to be positive enough:
- “The Home’s $130 price significantly undercuts the $180 Echo, but Amazon just released a $50 version of its trimmed-down smart speaker — the Amazon Echo Dot. The Dot has all the smarts of the Echo, and plugs into your own sound system. The Home itself won’t be able to do that. You’ll have to buy a separate $30 Chromecast Audio streamer, bringing the $160 total to over three times the price of the Echo Dot.
The Home, then, has its work cut out for it to oust Alexa from her place as the best smart-home assistant, especially given Alexa’s robust catalog of capabilities. With the Home’s ability to hold a conversation, sync to multiple devices, and leverage Google’s brand and Works with Nest to build a smart-home platform, we could be in for a spectacular battle for smart speaker supremacy.”
“That’s all great, but it’s not quite enough. One of the reasons that the Echo is so interesting is that it has “skills” that let it work with any number of third-party devices and services. Google Home can talk to some smart devices — Nest, Hue, and SmartThings — and some services like Uber, but developers can’t add their services to Home without setting up a partnership with Google. The company promises me that will change later this year.”
“The top half of Home features a clean, diagonal face with LEDs embedded underneath and a capacitive touch panel for manual controls like play/pause and volume. Dots in the four Google colors light up and spin to show that Home is actively listening and completing a command.
Google touts its long history in Far Field voice recognition to provide unparalleled always listening capabilities. For instance, Home can easily pick up “Ok, Google” even when audio is playing through the speaker. There is a physical button on Home to turn off the microphone with the four dots turning red to signify that “Ok, Google” is disabled.”
“It seems a whole lot more useful than Amazon Echo. Because Google has a more complete ecosystem and access to more of your personal data, Home is able to integrate deeper into your life. Google’s intelligence when it comes to context is a big factor, and that makes interacting more intuitive. Do you want Google to have all that information about you? That’s a question you’ll have to ask yourself, but if you’re already embedded in the Google ecosystem (using Google Calendar, Maps, YouTube, etc.) it’s just one small step beyond that. If you aren’t in the ecosystem, well, maybe the promise of a smart home that’s actually smart will entice people to take the plunge. That’s what Google is hoping anyway.”
Google Home goes on sale in November, from a variety of retailers, and it will cost $129. Pre-orders are live now.