Google Home , the company’s answer to Amazon’s Echo , made its officialdebut at the Google I/O developer conference earlier this year. Since then, we’ve heard very little about Google’s voice-activated personal assistant. Today, at Google’s annual hardware event, the company finally provided us with more details.
Google Home will cost $129 (with a free six-month trial of YouTube red) and go on sale on Google’s online store today. It will ship on November 4.
Google’s Mario Queiroz today argued that our homes are different from other environments. So like the Echo, Google Home combines a wireless speaker with a set of microphones that listen for your voice commands. There is a mute button on the Home and four LEDs on top of the device so you know when it’s listening to you; otherwise, you won’t find any other physical buttons on it.
Because Google wants Home to be something you could easily put into your living room, you can choose from bases in different colors that will help you match the Home to the rest of your interior design (though the overall design best lends itself to the living room of a mid-century Eichler in Palo Alto). Google argues that it took its design cues from wine bottles and candles.
What Google Home is really about, though, is the Google Assistant — the next-gen conversational version of what we currently know as Google Now. If the Google Assistant on Google Home is anything like the first text-centric version of the service we’ve seen inGoogle Allo, then it’ll offer users a mix of delight (when it gets things right) and utter frustration (when it doesn’t). As Google’s new Allo chat app has shown us, the Google Assistant often can’t answer your questions. On the screen, that means Google can show you links, but on Home, it will read out snippets from Google Search.
Google today stressed that the company wants to be able to personalize its services to the point where we all get “our own Google.” Home with the Google Assistant is clearly geared toward that.
A new Assistant feature, “My Day,” also gives you a morning update with current weather, commute times and a summary of your schedule (assuming you opt in).
It’s no secret that Google is relatively late to the game here. With its line of Echo devices, Amazon has already cornered much of the early adopter market for this kind of device. This early lead means that Amazon’s Echo line also works with the vast majority of smart-home gadgets, be those Nest thermostats or Philips Hue lights (Amazon is even selling the Echo in bundles with those third-party devices).
Unsurprisingly, Google has partnered with Nest, Phillips, Samsung and IFTTT to support their smart home devices. That’s not a lot of partners, but IFTTT itself does support quite a few devices already and Google can piggyback on that.