Voice-activated devices are increasingly common in the modern home. In the US, the number of people using voice-activated searches has risen by 128.9% since 2016. Furthermore, estimates suggest that by 2020, 50% of all online searches will be spoken.
In order to see the above estimates bear fruit, voice-activated machines will need to be considered indispensable. We’re not sure the Google Home device and its peers are quite there yet, but they’re certainly close.
Arriving later than Amazon’s assistant Alexa, Google Home and the Google Assistant it contains is predictably a little behind. Nonetheless it has many of the functions you’d expect from the tech giant. After waking it up with the “OK, Google” or “Hey, Google” commands, you can find answers from its search engine, instruct it to play music from the cloud or your personal collection, schedule and set reminders for appointments and use it to stream entertainment on Chromecast and selected smart TVs.
Aesthetically, though, the Google Home device definitely isn’t playing catchup. It allows users to customise its looks by opting for different, interchangeable bases. With a choice of textile or metallic finishes as well as a range of colours, you can ensure that Google Home fits in with your décor in a way that the more monolithic Amazon Echo doesn’t.
Voice-activated devices don’t exist in isolation, however, they must connect and communicate with the software and hardware you use on a regular basis. Here the Google Home could overtake its rivals. Its growing list of compatible ‘partners’ includes plenty of smart home innovators. Connecting with Chromecast is simple, with effortless connections to Netflix, Spotify and Sky. You can control your lighting via Nest or Philips, stream on a Sony, get the latest headlines from the Financial Times and pair with other Android devices.
One of the most handy (or rather hands-free) solutions Google Home can offer though, is only available in the US and Canada at the time of writing. Hands-free calling lets you upload your contacts and instruct Google Home to call them. It’s a service Amazon Echo currently only offers between Echo users, so this could give Google the edge.
One of the weaknesses of the Google Home device is epitomised in a single phrase: “I haven’t learned that yet”. Many of the instructions are frustratingly specific, and if you don’t stick to them you’re unlikely to get what you want. With Google Home listening, and Google editors working hard, we’d expect this to improve going forward, but it can’t happen soon enough.
Likewise, better creative connections with the smart home are an exciting prospect, and increasingly likely. Google has made the Conversation Actions and the Conversation API available to developers, meaning partners can manage their own integrations. So where the Echo may keep pushing Amazon products, Google Home will expand to a wider range of companies and services.
This could make Google Home the ultimate facilitator for luxury living. Smart integration of technology gives you true control over your home’s ambience, from the colour of the lighting and power of the fire, to the music playlist and timing of your evening meal. In the end, that’s worth more to many of us than a mere voice-powered search engine.