When you want information about something – anything – where do you go? Until about 10 years ago, the answer to that question would have been “the library”, right? Not any more. Ever since Sergei Brin and Larry Page revealed that little rectangular box on computer monitors all over the world, the answer has been Google.
Larger than any library in the world and infinitely more universally used, Google Search has undeniably been the mainstay of research and information for most of this millennium. But so far it’s only been available “on-screen”, as it were. With Google Home, they’re finally got it on tap!
Introducing Google Home – The Power of Voice
Google Home, Alphabet’s answer to Amazon’s Echo devices, was officially unveiled to the world on October 4 – exactly a month ago. In many ways Google Home is identical to the Echo – it’s voice-activated, it can call you a cab, it’s designed to control your smart home devices, play your favorite music and do just about anything else that the Echo can.
But Google Home has one thing that Echo does not have now and probably never will – Google Search!
This is a huge advantage for Google because it represents the direction that search technology is taking. In a few years, we won’t need a screen or a keyboard or anything to find out what we need to know.
Of course, Voice Search has been around for a while, since 2002, actually. But it worked in a very different way then. You had to call in a number, then say what you were looking for, and then either wait for the page to load on your computer or click an updated page link.
Over time, it evolved through various stages, utilizing voice recognition in various ways. The culmination of those evolutionary stages is Google Home.
Google Home Design and Function Aspects
The design itself is very unobtrusive. It can sit in your bathroom as comfortably as in your living room because it looks like – and it’s not just me saying this – an air freshener!
Google has done a Henry Ford by offering just one color – white. But for $20 you can choose a fabric or metallic base to have it blend in with its surroundings. At the top is a touch panel where you control the volume, activate listening mode and so on. The Echo’s ring controls for the volume are actually better to use, but the panel’s four embedded lights light up in what looks like Google’s logo colors and is far less intrusive than the Echo’s piercing blue light.
The two mics that pick up your voice are also on the top panel, and they’re quite sensitive. The “wake” words are currently OK Google or Hey, Google, but the company says it’s working on testing a variety of words and phrases for this.
According to Google, once the wake words are spoken, everything following that is sent to Google Cloud to process. That should reassure Google Home owners that Google isn’t listening in on every conversation, and there’s a mute button on the side with which you can disable the voice activation altogether. The best part is that you can go back to your Google account and see your command history at myactivity.google.com.
As a voice-controlled music player Google Home is as useful as the Echo. It comes with Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music and YouTube Music, but you can also cast audio files from your laptop or mobile device. There’s no Bluetooth built in, but you probably won’t need it anyway.
The Future of Home Connectivity
One reason it’s called Google Home is that the company wants it to eventually be able to control every smart device in your home. Support is currently available for SmartThings, Hue and Nest, but they’re working on expanding its reach beyond just controlling the lights or the thermostat.
You can also control your Chromecast and have it play videos on your TV. The hope for the future is that Google Home will be able to do a lot more than just play music, videos and control a few smart gadgets.
A fully hands-free experience is still a long way away, but Google Home is probably the first significant step that the company has taken towards home automation. One day, you’ll be able to control your security systems, all your electronic devices, your appliances as well as being able to communicate with the outside world.
You have to own a device to truly get a feel of what it’s like, but even at this stage of development it seems Google has done pretty well in comparison with Amazon. Considering the fact that the Echo hasn’t evolved dramatically over the past two years that it’s been available on the market, I think Google’s done a pretty good job with Google Home.
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