Google launches omniscient voice-controlled Home device
It may look like a minimal speaker, but this new product from Google promises to harness the search giant's data troves to provide all-knowing assistance in the home.
Part of a suite of new products launched on Tuesday, Google Home represents the company's move into smart homes.
The device, designed to sit on kitchen countertops or side tables, can act as a central command centre for homes connected to many digital gadgets and systems.
Wholly voice-controlled, it is always listening for commands that start with "Ok Google".
Using the company's new Google Assistant – a rival to Apple's Siri – Google Home is able to perform functions like answering questions, alerting residents to useful information and controlling other devices in the house.
True to its form, it can also play music from a range of compatible services or streamed directly from a phone.
The company promises that Google Assistant will respond to more natural conversation than its predecessor, Google Now.
Google Assistant will continue to draw on the company's data as well as information from users' connected accounts to alert them to relevant information like flight information, weather warnings and appointments.
Google first unveiled the product at its I/O annual developer conference in May, but went into more detail at yesterday's Made by Google event in San Francisco.
It launched a number of new hardware products at the event, including the Pixel phone – the first handset to be designed by Google – and the smartphone-compatible Daydream View VR headset.
The major launches suggest Google is trying to turn around its hardware fortunes after the shelving of its vaunted modular smartphone Project Ara and, prior to that, Google Glass.
The design of Google Home is white, rounded and minimal, with one concealed button and no switches or screens. It has a capacitive surface that responds to touch.
Its bottom half is a speaker component that comes in a range of different colours, as well as metal and fabric finishes.
Its appearance is one of the factors distinguishing it from Amazon's similar smart home product, the Echo. Both have the capacity to act as a central control centre for a number of smaller, more niche gadgets.
Designers and technology companies have been competing over recent months to provide the first and best smart home products.
What unites these various products is that they allow elements of the home that are usually manually controlled – from lighting and heating to doorbells and electronics – to be controlled automatically or remotely.
Examples include Philippe Starck's smart radiator valves, which allow homeowners to remotely control the temperature of each room using their voice, and Yves Behar's home security system that allows users to remotely let visitors into their home.