Google Home is still quite new with it only expecting to hit Australia in summer and the entire thing barely six months old. But that hasn’t stopped Google from adding in a bunch of new features. This week, the developers of Google Home announced they released upgrades that would help to personalise interactions and increase hands-free ability. The summer release will also include Canada, Germany and Japan.
Hands-free ability is aided by making use of Google Assistant, which makes a call of any land or cell line when requested. It does not require setting up on either end and because Google Home recognises voices, a generic command like “Call Dad” will get the right number called. It’s possible to choose between calling from your cell or a private number which is the default. Calling from the cell would incur charges but there have been no details on how this charging would work.
For now, Google Home just gives audio replies but soon the device will cast visual replies to phones and TVs. This is why Google has also announced an upgrade for Chromecast which will let it show visual responses on a connected TV. By having both the phone and TV as an option the device would choose what would be best to display on by considering the information. Maps and traffic would be sent to the phone while TV guides or weather would be sent to the TV. Over time the device will learn from where the user prefers to have what data displayed.
By learning from the user, the Google Home can help to think ahead. This starts with reminders and changes in flight status but should get more detailed. It can also offer assistance by lighting up when you’re near it and it thinks it has something to offer. All existing devices with get Bluetooth support to aid streaming and while it wasn’t specified how the device knows you’re near, Bluetooth sensors may have been involved.
Google Home can stream YouTube and Netflix to TVs at the moment. The list of future services being supported is growing with HBO Now and Hulu set for the future. They will all be able to be launched by voice command. This also extends to Spotify which is now available and can be launched by voice command. Deezer and SoundCloud are expected to come on board by summer.
Google continues to challenge Amazon with the Google Home and Amazon Echo pushing each other. Amazon has more connections with smart home products but Google holds advantages on the artificial intelligence. It remains to be seen which company and device will hold the final edge over the other but for fans of the smart home the future is very exciting. While the Google Home is not as essential a product as others and likely will not become as ubiquitous as Android Auto (since that device is going to be built in to car dashboards), it should be quite popular because of all its upcoming features.