Google Home

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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.

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