Google's smart benchtop speaker is coming to Australia mid-year, challenging Amazon's Alexa for pride of place in Aussie kitchens. Here's everything you need to know, including how to works and how much we can expect to pay for the device in Australia.
Running the AI-powered Google Assistant, the voice-controlled Google Home lets users speak naturally to access a wealth of online services as well as listen to music and control smart home appliances. Google's smart speaker is coming to Australia mid-year along with four other new countries, as part of Google Home expansion plans announced overnight at the Google I/O developer conference in Mountain View, California.
At the same time the Google Assistant is spreading its wings, expanding beyond Google Home and Android smartphones to Apple's iPhone as well as smart home appliances such as fridges, dishwashers and ovens. Google Assistant is also embracing the Internet of Things, with a new developer kit allowing hardware makers to connect practically any device to the internet and control it via Google Assistant.
"The Assistant is becoming even more conversational, always available wherever you need it and ready to help get even more things done," says Google Assistant VP of Engineering, Scott Huffman.
"Almost 70 per cent of requests to Google Assistant are expressed in natural language, not the typical keywords which people type in a search box, and many requests are follow ups that continue the conversation. We're really starting to crack the hard computer science challenge of conversationality."
Google is yet to announce Australian pricing for Google Home, but it is likely to cost at least $199 (including GST) judging by the $US129 price tag.
Google Home is set to arrive locally as rival Amazon significantly expands its Australian operations, likely including a local release of its similar Echo benchtop speaker. Echo is powered by Amazon Alexa smart voice assistant and is tightly integrated into Amazon's online retail platform, making it easy for users to shop from their kitchen.
Unlike Amazon Echo, Google Home has the ability to recognise the voices of different users in the home. To help it go toe to toe with Amazon in the home, new Google Home features include the ability to handle transactions, along with "proactive assistance" which will allow the speaker to alert users to important issues such as calendar appointments, traffic congestion requiring earlier departure times and flight delays.
Google is also adding support for Spotify Free, Soundcloud and Deezer, while the new Visual Responses feature will let the Google Home speaker send search results to smartphones or televisions connected to a Google Chromecast.
American Google Home users will soon be able to make free calls to landline and mobile numbers across the US and Canada, although this is unlikely to be available in Australia at launch.