“Hey Google” is normally a phrase you hear a lot when people use their Google Home device or Android smartphones. But this year, the phrase is being “seen” a lot more than before. At CES 2018 this year in Las Vegas, Google is pushing its virtual assistant in a big way, even painting the side of the monorail that goes past the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Outside the convention center in the parking lot is a massive two-storey structure called The Gallery with Hey Google on top in large lettering. Exactly what it’s going to be used for is anyone’s guess at this point, but it’s definitely a major promotional setting for Google Assistant.
So, why is Google focusing on its AI assistant in such a big way at CES 2018? There are a couple of good reasons for that.
First of all, Google Assistant is on a lot more devices now than ever before. It’s on the hot-selling Google Home Mini and all other home devices that have been selling pretty well over the holiday season. But, more importantly, it’s entered the Android ecosystem more pervasively than ever.
The second reason is Amazon, which, despite not having the deep AI capabilities of the search engine giant, has had far more commercial success with voice-activated gadgetry than Google. The fight against Amazon to dominate voice is probably more crucial to Google than its hardware push.
Google Search may be the dominant tool for text searches, but voice dominance was still on the table until recently. But Microsoft Bing may have already lost that battle as reports have come in that Apple is moving to Google Search for not only its HomePod, but also for Siri on iOS and macOS devices.
That means the timing is perfect for Google to showcase its voice capabilities at CES 2018. Now that they’re on the verge of cornering the market, it could mean the beginning of the end of Amazon’s dominance in the space.
That said, Amazon is not going to take it sitting down. The retail and technology giant has already integrated its own virtual assistant, Alexa, deeply into the smart home and connected automobile world, and it already has the widest range of smart speakers to choose from.
That dominance isn’t going to go away overnight, of course, but every move Google makes in that direction only means a weakening of Amazon’s position in the space.
Google has several distinct advantages over Amazon in the voice arena:
#1 – Google Search: As we’ve already seen, Google’s position in voice search is already being fortified as smart gadget makers like Apple accept its superiority.
#2 – Android: With 85% of the world’s smartphones running Android, Google Assistant is sure to follow. The only thing keeping usage at a low level is user comfort. As more people become comfortable with voice queries instead of quickly typing out their search term, Google’s search dominance in the Android world is only going to get stronger. It is now a question of when, not if.
#3 – Artificial Intelligence: Google’s AI chops are, by far, superior to anything else that’s commercially available. Several companies operate in this space, no doubt, but the kinds of projects that tech companies like IBM or Facebook are working on are specialty areas such as big data analytics or social-focused AI, not the wide-net AI capability that Google can put out.
These three advantages are more than enough to put Google at the top of the voice pile. And you can bet that we’ll be seeing a lot more of “Hey Google” over 2018, beginning at the Consumer Electronics Show that kicks off on January 9.
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