News, Smart Home

Introducing Google Home

Following a preview at this year’s Google I/O conference, the search giant this week finally opened up pre-orders for Google Home. The Amazon Echo competitor, powered by Google Assistant, allows homeowners to find easy answers from Google, stream music, manage everyday tasks, and control smart home devices.

Like Amazon Echo, the device offers a wide range of first-party and third-party features. The entire top of the conical-shaped device is a touch panel, allowing manual control alongside voice. Tap Google Home to pause or stop audio, timers, alarms, and responses. Swipe a circle clockwise to turn up audio volume and counterclockwise to turn down. A long press triggers the Google Assistant, while a dedicated mute button on the back keeps Google Assistant from being triggered.

Four status lights on the top of Google Home let you know when the device is active. No lights mean that Google Home is listening for a command, animated lights denote that the device is listening to your request, while four red lights mean that voice control is deactivated.

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An integrated “high-excursion” speaker delivers what Google describe as “crystal-clear highs and rich bass”. Partnerships with Google Play Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, Pandora and TuneIn ensure that a wealth of tunes are available to enjoy. Alongside those services, you can stream Podcasts and radio stations, along with audio from your phone via 100+ Chromecast-enabled audio apps or through phone mirroring. Multi-room grouping is available too – any combination of Google Home, Chromecast Audio or Speakers with Google Cast support can be synced to play music throughout the home.

At this week’s launch, Google spent a considerable time talking up the progress of the company’s machine learning and translation capabilities. Google Assistant, which debuted recently on the company’s Allo app, is fully integrated into Google Home allowing users to ask questions and receive intelligent, contextual responses to their queries. Maths questions, dictionary definitions, facts, stock prices, news and sports updates and language translation will all be supported at launch.

Managing day to day tasks at home will also be aided, with Google Home supporting alarm schedules, timers, shopping list creation and management as well as weather reporting, local guide information, calendars, traffic reporting and more.

Google Home will also control a growing list of third-party smart home devices. Alongside support for IFTTT at launch, partnerships with Philips Hue, SmartThings from Samsung, Honeywell, Nest and ecobee thermostats will kick off proceedings. In December, Actions on Google Home will launch, allowing third-party developers to integrate their own services with the device.

With a nod to the limited edition “shells” which were released for the Google OnHub router earlier in the year, Google Home will have a range of magnetic bases which can be easily swapped to customise the look of the device. They’re available exclusively from the Google Store.

Priced at $129, Google Home is available to pre-order in the USA today and set to roll-out in early November. Expect to see additional countries added in 2017.

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Terry Walsh is the founder of We Got Served. He started the community in February 2007 with a mission to help families, tech enthusiasts everywhere figure out the technology needed to run the modern home and small business. He's the author of a number of guides to Windows, Windows Server and OS X Server and runs his own successful publishing business. Born and raised in Liverpool, England, Terry has been awarded Microsoft's prestigious Most Valuable Professional Award each year since 2008 for his work on We Got Served.

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