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Google's smart speaker takes on Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa

Google's smart speaker takes on Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa Science & Technology World Website


It is turning into a monumental battle between tech giants.

The race to create a smart home assistant has already seen a plethora of virtual assistants, from Apple's Siri to Amazon's Alexa and Facebook's chatbots.

Now, Google has joined the fray with Home, a $130 smart speaker that can do everything from play music to control your lights - and has the vast knowledge of Google's search engine as its 'brain'.

We pitted it against Amazon's Echo Dot and Apple's Siri in a series of tests to reveal the personality (or lack of) in each of them.  

Google's Home is the firm's latest AI move, after introducing its smart assistant in the new Pixel handsets last month.

After a week with Home, while it's been an incredibly impressive glimpse into how useful an AI assistant could one day be, it seems Google still has some work to do - although this is a device that oozes with potential for the future. 

That said, it's already extremely capable in many areas.

Ask about your day, and the Home speaker will give you the time, weather, estimated commute, the news and upcoming calendar appointments.

The speaker is a really lovely piece of design, and it's tough to fault the hardware. If you're not keen on the colour, you can simply swap the bottom part for another colour or material.

Sound quality was surprisingly good, and listening to music really wasn't the horrible experience I was expecting (particularly as, like Amazon's Echo, it can integrate with Spotify, and access all of your playlists and Spotify's superb recommendations).

The top of the speaker doubles as a touch sensitive control surface, although I found it was mainly used to control the volume.

Useful LEDs swirl as it is working, so you know when it is thinking. 

The voice recognition is also astonishingly good - I can barely recall it not hearing something over my week with it, whether it was my British accent or my wife's American one asking the questions.

However, that does bring up one problem - it will answer anyone, and can only be linked to one Google account at the moment - so a couple can't both have their diaries available, for instance. 

The obvious competitor at the moment is Amazon's Echo, with its Alexa assistant.

It has a major head start on Google, and can do a lot more at the moment.

However, even with its early incarnation of a Google digital companion called Assistant, Home actually seems the smarter of the two - and most of that is down to how much Google already knows about you.

For instance, it knows about upcoming trips, based on reservations in Gmail, and also really nicely integrates commute times, complete with delays, based on data in Maps.

Echo, on the other hand, can direct you to work - and that seems about it.

However, the Echo does have the upper hand when it comes to partnerships, and can integrate with a Fitbit, order pizza and even call an Uber.

Amazon has more than a thousand of these partnerships, known as skills.

Google's integrations are initially limited to calling for Ubers, changing news or music providers and controlling smart lights from Phillips, SmartThings and the temperature of your home - if you're using Google's Nest.

It's also possible to control your TV with home, up to a point. 

Home supports Google's Chromecast but so far the support seems a little patchy, and I found it doesn't always work. 

However, with a 4K version hitting the market soon, expect this to be another thing about Home that gets better very quickly.

Both devices work as alarm clocks or timers — and are great in the kitchen. 

Home really excels here though - you can ask it recipes, and it'll read out cooking instructions to you. 

It's also a lot more fun if you have kids - for instance, it can play sound games if you ask it what sounds animals makes (although my dog was unimpressed by its cow impression). 

However, using a smart speaker, be in the Echo Dot or Home, does require a big change in the behaviour of owners.

It really does take a while before you automatically remember you can ask Google for things - and I must confess, a week in with Home, I often still whip out my phone to do things I could simply have asked for.

But given time, it seems having the might of Google's search engine behind is will give Home a much smarter brain than anyone else - and could see Google making a smart home assistant a reality. 


Google unveils a megatablet: $6000 55inch Jamboard touchscreen

Google's smart speaker takes on Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa Science & Technology World Website


Google has designed a giant touch-screen canvas for companies trying to make it easier for their employees to brainstorm as they work on team projects and other assignments.

The product is called 'Jamboard,' an allusion to its goal of replacing the physical whiteboards that companies have been setting up in meeting rooms for decades. 

It boasts a 55-inch, ultrahigh-definition screen capable of recognizing the difference between when someone is writing on it with a stylus or touching it with a finger.

Google is releasing the device to a small group of companies Tuesday before making it widely available early next year.

As with a whiteboard, employees can post their ideas, documents and images on the Jamboard, only they won't need markers, tape or sticky notes to do it. 

Instead, they can use their fingers, a stylus or smartphones and smaller tablets to share information and content from anywhere with an online connection. 

All the work posted on a Jamboard can be saved in Google's online storage service, Drive.

Jamboard represents Google's latest effort to lure business and government customers away from Microsoft, which makes a similar product called the Surface Hub. 

Google is undercutting Microsoft by pricing Jamboard at about $6,000, a 33 percent markdown from the $9,000 Surface Hub.

Using Jamboard will require a subscription to Google's G Suite of email and other business applications, a service that starts at $5 per month.

Jamboard reinforces Google's push to make its own gear in an attempt to hook more people on its software and other digital services. 

Until this fall, Google had teamed up with other manufacturers whenever it made a phone or other gadget.

But Google just rolled out a fancy smartphone called the Pixel that it designed itself. Soon it will start selling an internet-connected speaker called Home. 

Both those devices feature a digital assistant powered by Google's artificial-intelligence programs.

Jamboard operates with an application that works on smartphones and tablets powered either by Google's Android software or Apple's operating system for iPhones and Pads. 

Jamboard won't work with Microsoft's Windows system, making it incompatible with Surface tablets and most personal computers.


Google to unveil new range of 'Pixel' phones and 4K Chromeca

Google's smart speaker takes on Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa Science & Technology World Website


Rumors surfaced this week suggesting Google may soon drop the Nexus brand for its upcoming flagship phones.

However, there has been no mention of a new product name to replaces the discontinued handsets, until now.

A new report from Android Police reveals that Google has settled on Pixel and Pixel XL for the 5in handset, codenamed Sailfish and the 5.5in version, known as Marlin - and both will be unveiled on October 4th.

‘Speaking to two independent sources, we now strongly believe that Google's formerly-maybe-Nexus-phones, Marlin and Sailfish, will be marketed as the Pixel and the Pixel XL,' wrote David Ruddock of Android Police.

'We do not have pricing information.‘

'At this time, it is unknown to us when Google decided to shift its in-house smartphone brand from Nexus to Pixel or why (though speculation will likely run wild).’ 

A reliable source told Android Police that the tech giant is hosting a major event next month that is focused on its new hardware.

These new HTC-built devices are said to completely different from any other Pixel hardware Google has released.

Included in this exciting fall event will also be a new 4K Chromecast device, which could be called either the Chromecast Plus or Chromecast Ultra.

The firm is also expected to show off the Google Home smart speaker, which made its debut at I/O in May, and in-house design for a Daydream VR viewer device, which is being called ‘Daydream View’. 

Android Police explains that have yet to find out what time the event starts and its location, ‘though San Francisco and New York have been their host cities of choice in the recent past’.

What they do know is that the Pixel phones should be available on or sometime after the event.

Although rumors are spreading that Google count dump Nexus, they aren’t turning their back on them just yet.

However, the company is now expanding the update to all Nexus users in the United States, Canada, Mexico, UK and Nordic countries.

To activate the service, Nexus owners can go to the Android Settings app, and toggle the feature on and off in the 'Networking' section.

The Wi-Fi Assistant uses a virtual private network (VPN) to try to secure a connection.

This allows the phone to decide whether a hotspot is safe, without the need for you to check manually.

It is unclear when the Wi-Fi Assistant will become available, however Google has said it will be in the 'next few weeks'.

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