Google has announced its competitor to Amazon’s Echo speaker—a conical Bluetooth speaker called Google Home that will launch later this year. The speaker will link up with an app called Assistant, and with Chromecast and Nest devices as well. What’s supposed to set it apart from Echo is that its voice response systems are intended to be a touch above what anyone else can do. You’re supposed to be able to “hold a conversation” with it, as it answers with naturalistic responses based on the personal information it already has about you. You ask it what’s playing tonight, and it should be able to answer with movies it thinks you’ll like.
Of course, the thing that most concerns us about Amazon’s Echo, and that would seem to concern us about Google Home, is how well it does with e-books and audiobooks. The Echo can play Audible books and read Kindle books aloud; will Google Home do the same for Google Play books? The answer isn’t clear right now. None of the news sources I’ve been able to find mention e-books or audiobooks at all (and I missed seeing the portion of Google I/O where it was demonstrated, so I don’t know if there’s a mention there), but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. The Google Play Books Android app can read e-books aloud, after all.
As for how well it can do against Amazon Echo in responding to voice commands, that remains to be seen. Alexa’s gotten high marks for how well it does, but Google has been working on voice stuff for a long time—at least as far back as the “Goog 411” automated phone number lookup service that it set up to harvest people’s voices for the sake of improving voice recognition. In any event, it’s good Amazon is picking up some more competition to keep it on its toes.