By Dennis Jones
If you were off recently, you might have missed the war that suddenly erupted over the voice-activated home device market. The antagonists: Google and Amazon.
What’s going on here? Well, Google made waves at I/O, its yearly developer conference, by announcing a smart speaker called Google Home that responds to voice commands.
If you think that sounds a lot like Amazon Echo, then you’ve hit the nail on the head. Google Home is almost exactly like Echo, which Amazon released way back in November 2014.
Google, for its part, isn’t shying away from confronting the imputation of plagiarism. At the product launch, CEO Sundar Pichai even thanked Amazon. In his words: “Credit to the team at Amazon for creating a lot of excitement in this space.”
Despite both being similarly-sized smart speakers, Google Home and Amazon Echo aren’t the same product. And that’s actually where things get interesting. Right now, Echo integrates with more services than Google Home. For instance, you can call an Uber, order Domino’s, or even access fitness information on your FitBit, using Echo.
But Google Home has some tricks of its own. Where Echo uses Alexa as its software back end, Home will use software that builds on Google Now, which has already proven to be incredibly successful. Google Home also interfaces directly with popular Google services and products, like Google Maps, Google calendar and the Nest thermostat.
Google Home takes advantage of Google’s years of experience in voice recognition, natural language understanding and conversational search technology. And yes, that’s a thing.
In essence, Google is taking the voice assistant technology that it uses in over a billion Android devices and bringing it into the home.
But what makes Google’s smart speaker stand out even more is the fact that it is really smart. I mean Google search level smart. And why’s that? Google Home actually taps into the knowledge of Google’s powerful search algorithms.
That’s where conversational search technology comes in. Not only does it understand the literal meaning of your search request, but it also picks up some of the context that surrounds your query. You know, like a human.
Whether you go crazy for Google Home — which is only available in the fall — or stay true to Echo, it’s pretty clear that both are major advances in the connected home space. And what’s more, understated in the coverage is the fact that Wi-Fi is the technology that is keeping the connected home always on.