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You’ve heard of the Amazon Echo, now meet Google Home. A new smart home speaker from the daddy of online search and services, it should be the smart device to rule them all. It’s behind the Echo in development, and still has much to learn, but even today the Google Home is a top buy.
What is Google Home?
Google describes its new Home device as a hands-free smart speaker. Always-on, it wakes to the command “Okay, Google” or “Hey, Google”, and though you can’t currently change this wake-up command you can alternatively tap the centre of its capacitive-touch top surface should you begin to get a little tongue-twisted.
It plays music, sure, but doing so isn’t a case of hooking up your phone via an AUX cable or Bluetooth and using it to blare out tunes. Instead, you stream music via online radio services, Google Play Music or Spotify Premium, or Cast-enabled apps. Right now Google Home doesn’t support Bluetooth at all, with setup completed via Wi-Fi (dual-band 802.11ac is supported).
Google Home is perhaps better thought of as the physical home to the new Google Assistant voice assistant that debuted in Android Nougat on the Pixel and Pixel XL.
It’s not yet as intelligent as the Assistant demoed during Google’s presentation, which could find a restaurant and place a reservation on your behalf, but it is possible to hold a conversation with Home. You might ask it, for example, what is the nearest pharmacy and then separately when do they close, but the need to say “Okay, Google” both times is a pain – we wish it would listen until we’re finished.
Today, Home is a voice-operated speaker that can answer any question for which you might Google the answer – whether or not you need an umbrella, how long it will take you to get to work, what are the latest headlines, where you should go for dinner and even the answers to complicated mathematical sums. In most cases it’s clever enough to understand natural language, though trying to get it to do too much at once can confuse things.
It’s more than that, though. Tying into a Google account it can tell you what’s on the calendar for your day, add items to your Google Keep shopping list, and even pull up a slideshow of images from Google Photos via Chromecast.
Home’s integration with Google apps isn’t universal, and the ability to add only one Google account is a limitation, but keep watching this space. We’re sure it’s only a matter of time before Google Home is able to send navigation instructions to your phone, pull up your most recent Gmail messages and allow you to dictate notes. Even placing a phone call over Google Home could become a reality.