Google Home is a brand of smart speakers developed by Google. The first device was announced in May 2016 and released in the United States in November 2016, with subsequent releases globally throughout 2017.
The original Google Home idle on a surface
|Release date||November 4, 2016(United States)|
|CPU||Home: Marvell 88DE3006 Armada 1500 Mini Plus dual-core ARM Cortex-A7 media processor|
|Input||Voice commands, limited physical touch surface|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi dual-band (2.4/5 GHz) 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth|
|Dimensions||Home: 96.4 mm (3.80 in) diameter, 142.8 mm (5.62 in) high
Home Mini: 98 mm (3.86 in) diameter, 42 mm (1.65 in) high
Home Max: 336.6 mm (13.25 in) wide, 190 mm (7.48 in) high
|Weight||Home: 477 g (1.05 lb)
Home Mini: 173 g (0.38 lb)
Home Max: 5,300 g (11.68 lb)
Google Home speakers enable users to speak voice commands to interact with services through Google's intelligent personal assistant called Google Assistant. A large number of services, both in-house and third-party, are integrated, allowing users to listen to music, control playback of videos or photos, or receive news updates entirely by voice. Google Home devices also have integrated support for home automation, letting users control smart home appliances with their voice. Multiple Google Home devices can be placed in different rooms in a home for synchronized playback of music. An update in April 2017 brought multi-user support, allowing the device to distinguish between up to six people by voice. In May 2017, Google announced multiple updates to Google Home's functionality, including: free hands-free phone calling in the United States and Canada; proactive updates ahead of scheduled events; visual responses on mobile devices or Chromecast-enabled televisions; Bluetooth audio streaming; and the ability to add reminders and calendar appointments.
The original product has a cylindrical shape with colored status LEDs on the top for visual representation of its status, and the cover over the base is modular, with different color options offered through Google Store intended for the device to blend into the environment. In October 2017, Google announced two additions to the product lineup, the Google Home Mini and the Google Home Max.
The iOS and Android app used to initially set up the smart speaker and Google's streaming devices has the same name. In October 2016, Google Cast was re-named Google Home, leaving "Google Cast" as the name of the technology.
In March 2016, reports were published about Google developing a wireless speaker to compete against the Amazon Echo. Google Home was officially announced at the company's developer conference in May 2016, where it was also announced that Home would run Google Assistant (a conversational evolution of Google Now intended to be integrated in other products announced at the conference as well).
Google Home was released in the United States on November 4, 2016. It was released in the United Kingdom on April 6, 2017. In May 2017, Google announced that Home would be heading to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan in the middle of 2017, and the device subsequently became available for pre-order in Canada on June 2, 2017, with a retail date of June 26. In July 2017, Google announced the release of Google Home in Australia on July 20, 2017, France on August 3, 2017 and Germany on August 8, 2017.
On October 4, 2017, Google announced Google Home Mini, a cheaper, smaller version of Google Home, that was released on October 19, 2017, as well as Google Home Max, a larger version of Google Home, that was released on December 11, 2017.
Various forms of both in-house and third-party services are integrated into Google Home, allowing users to speak voice commands to control interaction with them. Examples of supported services include Google Play Music, Spotify and iHeartRadio for audio, Netflix, YouTube and Google Photos for videos and photos, Google Calendar and Google Keep for tasks, and CNN, CNBC and The Wall Street Journal for news updates. New services are integrated on an ongoing basis.
Google Assistant, an intelligent personal assistant, is included as the main and only assistant in Google Home. Unlike its cousin, Google Now, Assistant is able to engage in two-way conversations with users. The Wall Street Journal reported in October 2016 that Google hired writers from Pixar movies and The Onion satirical newspaper to develop a personality for the Assistant, with a long-term goal being to invoke a sense of emotional rapport in users.
Users can connect and group together multiple Home speakers for synchronized playback of music in every room. A notable feature omission, multiple accounts, was criticized by JR Raphael of Computerworld in November 2016, but an update for users in the United States in April 2017 enabled the feature. Google Home can now recognize up to six different voices, pulling information from their different accounts depending on who's talking. However, Ryan Whitwam of Android Police criticized the inability to create reminders or appointments in users' calendars, writing that "adding something to your calendar has to be one of the most common tasks for a human assistant. It's certainly not impossible to do this stuff, either".
Google Home includes home automation features, enabling owners to use it as a central hub to control smart devices. Examples of supported devices include the Chromecast digital media player, and products from Nest, SmartThings, Philips Hue, LIFX, LightwaveRF, and Logitech Harmony.
In May 2017, Google announced multiple updates to Google Home's functionality. It now supports hands-free calling, letting users make calls to any landline or mobile phone in the United States and Canada for free. There is no 9-1-1 emergency services support, however. "Proactive Assistance" enables the device to dictate updates to users without being asked, including updates on traffic before a scheduled event. "Visual Responses" let users send answers from Google Home onto their mobile device or Chromecast-enabled television. The device now also supports Bluetooth audio streaming through compatible devices (including phones, tablets and computers), and the ability to schedule calendar appointments, with upcoming support for reminders.
The Information reported that Google Home's internal hardware was very similar to that of Chromecast, with the same ARM processor and Wi-Fi chip. A teardown of the original model by iFixit in November 2016 confirmed that the device featured many of the exact same hardware components as the second-generation Chromecast.
The original Google Home model is a cylindrical speaker that is 5.62 inches (143 millimetres) high, and 3.79 inches (96 millimetres) in diameter. The top surface of the device features colored status LEDs, and features capacitive touch controls to start and stop music, and adjust volume. A mute button is located on the back of the device, which disables the microphones.
The base of the device is covered by a shell acting as a speaker grille, which is designed to be removed and replaced with one that suits the decor of a room. As of November 2016[update], Google offers fabric shells in "Mango", "Marine", and "Violet" color finishes, and metallic shells in "Carbon", "Copper", and "Snow" finishes.
Google unveiled Google Home Mini during a hardware-focused event on October 4, 2017, which was released on October 19, 2017. It is a variant of Google Home with the same overall functionality, but in a smaller pebble-like form factor around 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter, with a fabric top that its white-colored status lights shine through. It has a mute switch rather than a mute button, and uses a micro USB connection for power. It is available in "Chalk", "Charcoal", or "Coral" color options. Analysts compared the Google Home Mini to Amazon's equivalent Echo Dot model.
Google also unveiled Google Home Max during its October 4, 2017 event and was released on December 11, 2017. It is a larger version of the device with stereo speakers (including two tweeters and subwoofers), an audio connector, and a USB Type-C connector intended for a wired ethernet adapter. Home Max will be sold in "Chalk" and "Charcoal" colors, and include a magnetically-attached stand for vertical orientation. Home Max also includes "Smart Sound", an adaptive audio system that uses machine learning to automatically adjust sound output based on factors such as the environment (including placement and sources of noise) and time of day. Analysts considered Home Max to be a more direct competitor to other speaker products such as those of Sonos, as well as Apple's forthcoming HomePod.
The original Google Home received mixed reviews. Its design and sound input/output received significant praise, while a lack of interoperability between other Google Assistant-enabled devices was criticized. Critics voiced concerns about Google's intentions with the device, particularly whether features would be more tightly integrated into other Google products and one critic noted that Google Home's functionality was more limited than those offered through the Google Assistant on other platforms. Reviewers had very different experiences with the setup process, with one critic praising it while another criticized it, and Google Home's search-based answers was the subject of debate, with one reviewer praising its capabilities while another highlighted multiple bad-quality answers.
David Pierce of Wired compared Google Home to Amazon Echo, writing in a summary that "Sometimes Home feels like sci-fi magic. Sometimes it reaches beyond its grasp and falls flat. The Echo is less impressive, but more reliable". Pierce praised the look of Google Home, writing that it feels "minimalist, thoughtful, and warm" in the environment, and also praised its speaker, describing it as "richer, brighter and more dynamic than the Echo, and loud enough to fill a room". While noting that Home's use of the Google Assistant functioned in different ways than it does through the Google Allo app or Google Pixel smartphone, meaning quick instructions rather than longer tasks, he praised its search abilities, writing that "you’d expect Home to excel at search. It does", despite some wrong search hiccups. Pierce criticized its lack of interoperability with other Google Assistant-enabled devices, though he called its future potential for connecting information across Google's product lines "enormous".
Ron Amadeo of Ars Technica praised Google Home's setup process and its ability to pick up voice commands even from a distance, calling the latter "absolutely incredible". He noted the device's limiting of its Bluetooth capabilities at the time (before the May 2017 update), however, writing that "it's important to know that Google Home is not a Bluetooth speaker; it's purely a Google Cast device. If you want to play audio on a Google Home, the service needs to have a Google Cast button". He similarly criticized the Assistant's lack of cross-device functionality, writing that "Pretty much all the actions you send to a Google Home will stay on that Google Home, and there's never an interaction with your phone", and he noted concerns and questions regarding whether Google has an intention to incorporate the functionality deeper into its product lines. Additionally, in his summary, he wrote that "Why pay $129 for a device that is less capable than an Android phone?".
James Martin of CIO, however, criticized Google Home for what he experienced as "too many setup headaches", citing multiple attempts to reboot the router, Google Home and his smartphone, but experiencing a lack of proper connectivity and disconnections. In a post examining Google's "featured snippets" (highlighted answers based on search results that Google Home uses to answer voice questions), Adrianne Jeffries of The Outline severely criticized Google for providing bad-quality answers, writing that "As Google attempts to combat the proliferation of fake news by banning publishers from its ad platform, it continues to disseminate fake news itself through featured snippets".
Prior to its release, a major bug was discovered on some Google Home Mini devices, where "phantom input" on its touch-sensitive surface—which could be tapped to activate Assistant without using its associated hotword command—caused Assistant to inadvertently activate on its own, resulting in unwanted voice recording. Google disabled, and then permanently removed, the ability to activate Assistant by touch on Home Mini models due to privacy issues associated with the bug. In December 2017, Google released an update to Home Mini, letting users long-press the volume buttons to play and pause audio.
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