Google has launched Google Home, a small speaker capable of answering voice commands through a new digital assistant.
The assistant is similar to Alexa, the artificial intelligence voice assistant powering Amazon Echo, which has surged in popularity in recent months.
Set for launch in Autumn 2016, Google Home doesn’t have a price attached to it yet. For refernce, rival Amazon Echo ranges from $89.99 for the Dot to $179.99 for the main Echo. In less than two years, Amazon has sold millions of Echo devices, but full figures have not been disclosed.
A demo during this week’s Google I/O conference showed the assistant will also provide better follow-up questions when seeking information.
At the event, Google CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated the assistant’s ability to parse context by asking it what movies were playing tonight, specifying that he wanted to bring the kids, and then buying tickets, all without leaving the app and more or less in the way you’d speak to a human.
Pichai said, sees the future of computing as an “ambient experience that extends beyond devices.
“We want users to have an ongoing two-way dialogue with Google,” Pichai told about 7,000 attendees in an outdoor music amphitheatre in the Internet company’s hometown. “We have started becoming truly conversational.”
Google Home got top billing during the two-hour keynote by Pichai and other executives at the company’s annual developer conference.
The base of Home is customisable, allowing users to change it to a look that fits their style. Google hasn’t revealed how many options are available, but expect several choices.
A portion of the Google Home demo shows the device notifying the user with a beep.
When the user says “OK, Google,” Home warned the user their flight was delayed by 30 minutes.
While Echo doesn’t include notifications as a primary feature, users go through apps like IFTTT, which lets them create tasks like notifications between apps and devices.
You can also call on the Assistant in a conversation, so your friends can see and respond to what it says. The Assistant also offers possible replies to things your friends say in chat, which Google is calling “suggestion chips.” Google learns what responses to offer based on how you write — some of the suggested responses in the demo included emoji and surprisingly specific comments on photos.
View the full Google I/O keynote here: