As many were expecting, Google announced several new features for its Google Home smart home device (see on Best Buy) during its I/O Conference. The headline addition to the Home was hands-free calling. You will now be able to say, “OK Google, Call Dad” and the device will know exactly who to call after you integrate your mobile phone with your profile. Users will be able to call any landline or mobile number in the United States or Canada for free. Pretty cool stuff. I could actually see myself using this. Interestingly, this development comes on the heels of Amazon adding voice calling and messaging for the Echo devices earlier this month. So we continue to see the cat and mouse game play out between Google and Amazon in the battle for the smart home assistant market.
Google Home: New Features
The Google Home is also getting much more proactive. So the Home will now be able give you meaningful alerts before you even ask a question. For example, say you have a flight later this afternoon that’s on your calendar and all of a sudden there is a major crash on the highway and traffic starts to back up – The Home will proactively alert you that you may want to leave earlier than originally anticipated.
Next up we have visual responses. So if you ask the Home a question that it thinks would be better expressed visually, you can throw the image onto your phone or TV via a Google Chromecast device. Seems cool in theory but honestly this is one of those features I’m not so sure I’d use that much. I usually just ask pretty simple questions anyways (i.e. who sings this song, what’s the weather like, what’s $2.69 x 1,150, etc.) + you have to have a Chromecast, which is about $35 a pop.
In addition to visual responses, The Home will now be able to send directions to your phone. So once you ask the Home where the nearest Chik-Fil-A is, just say “Ok, Google. Let’s Go”, the home will recognize who asked the question and send the directions directly to your phone.
Google Home: New Streaming Services
But perhaps the biggest new addition, at least in my eyes, is that the Home now supports several new streaming services. So as you may recall from our Google Home Review, one of the biggest features the Home had over the Echo when it first came out was that you were able to stream Netflix or YouTube on your TV via Chromecast by asking the Home. Well now, you will be to ask the Home to stream content from HBO Now, Hulu, Crackle, CBS and more straight to your TV.
Lastly, Google announced that you will now be able to play music from your phone through Home over Bluetooth. So basically it can now just function as your typical Bluetooth speaker. Honestly, I was a little surprised this capability wasn’t there from the start but now that it’s here, there’s not much more to say.
So those are the big additions announced today. I must say, I’m excited to use some of the new features. I think the hands-free calling, proactive alerts and additional streaming options could be pretty useful. It will be interesting to watch the battle between Google and Amazon continue to play out. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s our Amazon Echo Dot 2nd Gen Review.