At I/O 2017, Google announced a bunch of new features for their connected Google Home speaker including hands-free calling, Bluetooth support, and visual responses.
Hands-free calling allows Google Home users to call any landline or mobile number in the US or Canada for free by simply saying “Hey Google, call [X].” No setup is required and the user receiving the call will see a private number, although you will have the option to link your phone number.
Interestingly, this comes right after Amazon announced both voice and video calling features with the all new Echo Look. However, Google likely has the advantage here as there’s a good chance that many of us already have our contacts synced with Google contacts because of Gmail. It’s a pretty cool feature and I have to admit makes the Google Home a lot more compelling.
Visual Response on TV via Chromecast
Visual Responses has to be one of the coolest things that’s coming to Google Home. What Google believes here is that voice assistants are nice but would be far better if they could provide some visual context when needed. This is exactly what the Echo Look is intended to do and it’s also what Apple’s VP of Marketing, Phil Schiller, said as well.
What Visual Responses do is send information to your device depending on where you are. Need directions? Simply ask your Google Home and it will send those directions to your phone. Want to watch a YouTube video, Google will send the information directly to your TV. It’s actually a pretty brilliant idea that basically beams the right information to the right screen. How this is done exactly, I’m not sure. But the idea that I can simply ask whatever I need and have it show up where it makes the most sense is super intriguing.
Other features being added to the Home include the ability to set reminders and calendar entries, notifications, which essentially will alert owners to things they need to know, like traffic alerts, or flight delays and the ability to stream more services like HBO Now and Hulu. It’s also coming to a variety of more countries this summer including Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan.
The company recently added support for multiple users which means it should know the difference between when you ask for something and when someone else asks for something. The company didn’t announce any new hardware for the Home, which makes sense since most of the updates are all cloud based.
Will this be enough to make the Home a more popular device than the Echo? It’s hard to say right now, but these updates make it far more interesting.