Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Google Home

For my birthday this year I received a trio of Google products, the Pixel phone, the Google Home device and the Google Daydream headset. I have been spending a lot of time with each and have been pretty happy with them all. Previously I wrote a bit about the Pixel. Today I want to talk about Google Home.

So first off, I have to say that I am totally bought into the Google ecosystem and that this starts with Android which I have used since it debuted on the G1. Everything else here should be viewed through that bias.

My father in law has had the Amazon Echo for two years now and my kids love asking it the same goofy questions they would ask Siri or Google. I toyed with getting the Echo but I always felt that my need for weather, traffic or some random information was pretty low at $150. Around my birthday the price for the Home was dropped from $139 to $100 so I figured at 50% of the cost, what the heck!

The device has a great low profile. The speaker for the system is pretty good. The ability for the device to hear commands from anywhere around the room is downright scary...even over other noises.

So here are some high level thoughts...

The Bad -

Ecosystem - Not much set up for the system yet. The Echo has a 2 year head start on the ecosystem development so the Google command set seems really limited. I suspect this will rapidly change now that the Google Actions and Assistant API pieces are opening up to developers. I suspect it will grow as quickly as the Android ecosystem did once it got rolling. I bet what I am calling a Bad today will quickly become an awesome.

Sonos Integration - I have 3 Sonos speakers in the house. It kills me that there is no integration point with Google Home. While the Home speakers are good, they are not of the quality you have with Sonos. I really hope that Sonos decides to do some kind of integration.

Language interaction - While I don't have any extensive experience with the Echo, I bet that it has a similar problem. The Home wants some pretty specific commands to interact with you. I was struggling mightily to get the Nest interaction down right. Now that I know how to do it things are easier but new interface interactions are going to always have a learning curve in the near term.

The Good -

Design - Low profile. Good sound quality. Creepy good listening.

Nest integration - Love this. I had a bit of a hard time working out the commands but now that I do it is killer to tell the Google Home to warm the house up or to cool it off.

Pixel integration - When you call the action word - Ok Google, both devices respond. If there is an interaction it comes on the louder Google Home. The two devices appear to work seamlessly together although I know that there are some occasional hiccups with that.

The Future - Being totally bought into the Google ecosystem I know that the future holds the ability down the road to search through my old emails, update my calendar, read me a particular document etc. The creation of an "App store" like framework for developers that can be used for things like Android phones and Chromecast devices has some killer potential for home automation and interaction.

Bottom Line - If you are a Google centric user, save the money and grab a Google Home. It is not at the same place as the Echo in terms of support currently but my guess is that it will get there in the next 12 months and accelerate beyond the Echo. If you are not a Google user and you want to experiment I am guessing the Echo dot might be a good call. I haven't looked into it yet but I believe that you can get one solo without an Echo. I suspect voice interfaces are in for a lot of great developments in the coming year.

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