The Home, bodily speaking, is this cute little cylindrical thing which is small and has an angled top. It consists of a customizable modular case which can be modified according to your fancy or whims or to go with your decor and some LED lights that wink alternatively to demonstrate that they are functioning. It is a lot similar to Google’s OnHub router in terms of its looks.
It’s not portable, but the benefit of always being plugged in is that Google can make a more powerful speaker. Quieroz says that it “really fills the room” and that it will have “strong bass and clear highs.” That’s important because one of the main use cases Google is foreseeing here is listening to music. The Echo isn’t great at that.
Another thing the Echo isn’t great at – having more than one. But Google Home is designed with multiple rooms and speakers in mind from the start. And because it’s using the basic Cast standard, you can talk to any speaker and tell it to play music on other speakers, just like you can with Google Cast Audio. It will work with Google Play Music, of course, but it should also be able to handle any other service that supports Google Cast, like Spotify.
MULTIPLE ROOMS, BUT NOT MULTIPLE ACCOUNTS
Compatibility with Cast gives it another smart ability: it can talk to the Chromecast you have plugged into your TV, playing YouTube clips and anything else you can think to ask for.
Unfortunately, the Home won’t support multiple Google accounts at launch, but the company says that will come in time.
The Home obviously lets you ask Google questions. Queiroz says that Google put a lot of time into thinking about how Google Home should respond to your queries. Its responses will be optimized for audio, giving just enough information without droning on too long.
There is one area where Home might not be as capable as the Echo, however, and that’s when it comes to extensibility and compatibility with other devices and services. Google has chosen not to open up a developer API for its assistant or for this device just yet. Instead, Google wants to take some time to build out the ways that its assistant can act as the interpreter between your natural way of speaking and the way that bots need to be spoken to.
Quieroz admits that the Echo’s wide array of skills is neat but says “then you start getting deeper and it doesn’t work very well, then you’re sort of disappointed. And I think that happens with Alexa sometimes.”
IT WON’T DO AS MUCH AS ALEXA, BY DESIGN
Instead, Google Home is going to work with a smaller set of home automation devices — Google wouldn’t say which, but it will include at least some thermostats and lights. And it will be able to do all the stuff that Google’s voice assistant can currently do (plus perhaps a bit more, we’ll know when we get a chance to really try it). Fortunately for Google, that’s quite a lot — thanks in no small part to the Knowledge Graph. It’s a kind of super database that understands thousands of “entities” and their relation to one another. So if you ask for a basketball player’s jersey number, Google can just give you the answer and then stand at the ready for more related questions without needing you to walk it through the current context.
Not having all the Echo’s third-party abilities might put some off from Google Home, but Quieroz says he isn’t worried — in fact he seems eager for the head-to-head competition. “We’re competing feature for feature in most of the areas. And in the areas that really matter to the consumer, we’re going to do a better job.”