Call­ing from HOME

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - MONEY & MARKETS EXTRA -

Google is en­abling hands-free phone calls us­ing its Home smart speaker.

Ama­zon's Alexa voice as­sis­tant in the Echo speaker and other de­vices can make calls to other Alexa users. Home goes fur­ther in be­ing able to call reg­u­lar phone numbers. But it can't call other smart speak­ers, not even other Home de­vices.

It's free for phone calls to your con­tacts and busi­nesses in the U.S. and Canada, with the ex­cep­tion of toll calls such as “1-900” numbers to psy­chic hot­lines. For those, and for calls to other coun­tries, you need to sign up and pay through Google Voice or Project Fi.

Google Home can dis­tin­guish be­tween dif­fer­ent users, so ring­ing “Dad” will call dif­fer­ent peo­ple de­pend­ing on who's speak­ing. But it's not a fail­safe if you've fallen and can't get up. It can't dial 911, be­cause it can't ac­cept re­turn calls re­quired by emer­gency re­spon­ders.

The mar­ket for voice-as­sisted speak­ers is small, but grow­ing. The re­search firm eMar­keter ex­pects us­age of such speak­ers to more than dou­ble this year, with nearly 36 mil­lion Amer­i­cans us­ing such a de­vice at least once a month by year's end.

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