Amidst all the hubbub surrounding AI-powered voice assistant, there was never a doubt that Google wouldn’t talk about the updates coming to its smart speaker — Google Home. The Google I/O 2017 developer conference is presently running its course and today it has been announced that the search giant is also adding hands-free voice calling, Bluetooth audio playback and a new notification system to its smart speaker.
Without a doubt, the hands-free calling functionality is the most significant addition to the existing capabilities of the smart speaker. You’ll now have the power to use your voice to place free calls to any landline or mobile phone in the U.S or Canada. In addition, Google Home is using its multi-user voice recognition technology (made possible just with the use of two microphones and neural beam forming technology) to identify different users in a family. This, as mentioned on stage, will recognize who’s talking to the speaker and access their contacts to complete the command.
Coming soon to #GoogleHome: hands-free calling. Call businesses, friends and family in the ?? and ??, even if you can’t reach your ? #io17 pic.twitter.com/hvG6wtS9qf
— Google (@Google) May 17, 2017
This development comes fresh on the heels of Google Home’s arch-nemesis and wildly popular smart speaker — Amazon Echo — gaining the ability to make free voice calls and messages. The e-commerce giant rolled out the said features alongside the launch of Echo Show, its new smart home speaker with a screen. But, it has since been faced with immense backlash for being too impatient to roll out the audio calling feature without the ability to block incoming calls from any recipients. It is currently working on the said feature and is expected to roll it out in the coming weeks.
It is presently unknown whether Google learned from Amazon’s PR nightmare surrounding the privacy concerns of their audio calling feature but it has restricted the feature only to outgoing calls. This means you can only use your Google Home to place calls to anyone in your contact list but all incoming calls will still be routed to your smartphone/landline. There is no way an individual can use the Google Home to call an individual’s Home or smartphone. This calling feature will be rolled out to Home owners across the globe in the coming months.
Bluetooth audio playback
In addition to audio calling, the Google Home speaker is also bringing Bluetooth connectivity to the realm of its features. This will enable you to play music or any other audio from any device, even if runs on either Android or iOS.
This feature is being sweetened with the general availability of Spotify’s free tier on the Google Home device. Earlier, you required to have a premium subscription to stream to Bluetooth devices. This is generally becoming available on the Assistant and you can read more about it right here. Soundcloud and Deezer are also expected to arrive on the smart speaker in the coming months.
Google is making some definite changes to how it deliver notifications and responses on the Google Home. Throwing down the gauntlet to its competitors, the search giant is employing its massive data pool to provide more flexible voice interactions. This is being described as Proactive Assistance, where Google Home will now provide you with info without you even prompting it about the same.
For example, suppose you have a meeting at 10:00 am this morning and a severe accident happened on the freeway in the driving direction of your work. Now, Google will access this real-time traffic info and prompt you to leave at least 15 minutes early to make it to the meeting on time.
Also, this feature is being complemented with the introduction of visual responses. This means if the Google Home device is trying to pass on some information to you but can better express it through a visual medium then it will take the said route. It will display the revelant content on the screen in your home, be it your connected TV with Chromcast support or smartphone.