It has been a year since the introduction of the Assistant-powered speaker, Google Home. In that short time the smart-home device has made major strides to gain ground on its main competitor, Amazon Echo. The addition of multi-user support was a major milestone for Home. With new actions and partners being added all the time, Google Home is gaining steam in the consumer market.
This weeks I/O event in Mountain View spotlighted some very significant upgrades heading to Google Home in the very near future. Not one specific feature is a major game-changer for Home but the culmination of these new additions give the connected-speaker a major boost when going head-to-head with Echo.
Here’s what is new in the coming months for Google Home.
This new notification system looks to give Home the ability to preemptively alert users of upcoming events, reminders as well as tailor notifications based on activity on your account.
The alerts will be non-intrusive. When an alert is triggered based on say, a calendar event, Home’s light ring will spin to give users a heads up that there is something it wants to share. These notifications will be very basic upon initial release, likely to allow developers to work out any major bugs before new feature are added.
Based on your daily activity, Home will also give you alerts for things like traffic delays using information from your daily commute, flight schedules and planned events. It will be interesting to see just how intuitive the Proactive Assistant feature will be.
I found this to be a very neat feature if you really rely on Google Home for daily tasks. Essentially, Home will allow you to share certain information with devices like your television or even your mobile phone.
If you want to check out your schedule for the week just say “Hey, Google” send my calendar to the TV. Other actions may include the ability to send directions to your smart phone without having to be that specific. If you ask the Assistant for directions to a location you can then say “Let’s go” and since Home can distinguish your voice from other household users, directions will be sent to your device.
New Streaming Services
Google might be playing catch-up in this area but Home is quickly adding new services and now you can add a few more to the list. For on-demand video, HBO Now and Hulu will be supported by Home and for audio users can now access Spotify Free, Deezer and SoundCloud.
This update also includes the activation of BlueTooth for Google Home devices. Now, even devices without Casting ability can link to the speaker to stream audio.
This one is huge. Amazon’s Echo just added this feature a couple of weeks back and now Google Home has fallen in right behind them. The wifi calling feature will give users the ability to make free calls to landlines and mobile phones anywhere in the U.S. or Canada.
No phone is required and Home will dial from a “private” number by default. If you choose to do so, you can link your personal number to your account. You can now make calls whilst roaming around you home with no secondary device needed. It’s as simple as saying “Hey, Google” call mom.
Calendars and Reminders
Long awaited and greatly criticized over, Google Home will finally be able to add calendar events and set reminders via the Google Assistant. We agree, this feature should have been a thing from the get-go but hey, better late than never. Also great news for millions of Pixel, Nexus and now, iPhone users.
Google also announced that third-party actions for Assistant on Mobile will now be available for developers. This is a big move for Google’s Siri competitor. A demonstration on stage showed searching, ordering and paying for a Panera Bread order all inside the Assistant app. Pretty awesome stuff.
Check back later today for announcements from the Chromebook developer session of Google I/O.