Google has just recently held its annual software festival at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California on May 18-20, 2016. This conference, tagged as the Google I/O, excites developers and fans alike as this is when big surprises and announcements happen. In this article, we will focus only on the news that are related to Smart Audio.
Get into conversation with Google Home
It looks like the Amazon Echo would have to make room for some competition as Google has just announced their recent brainchild, the Google Home. While Siri or Cortana serve as your personal assistant on the go, the Amazon Echo and the Google Home are more like your home buddies.
Both, the Amazon Echo and the Google Home are hands-free, Wi-Fi-enabled speakers that respond to your voice. These speakers are designed not only to play music throughout your house; they were made to be your all around personal assistant at home. You can let them cover some of your tasks such as making out a grocery list, setting the alarm, or even buying movie tickets. You can also have them turn on your entertainment systems. They can even answer any questions you ask. Basically, both these speakers allow for a truly smart home experience.
Google Home vs Amazon Echo
Just how does the Google Home fare with the Amazon Echo? Let’s start with the physical. The Echo is cylindrical and about 9.25 inches tall and comes only in black. Google Home on the other hand comes in a more unique, lamp-like, or as joked about by fans, air fresher-like shape. Also, the bottom of the Home can be switched with different materials and colors to match the users’ home décor.
When it comes to being a good conversationalist, Google overtakes Alexa, as Google is able to use the context of your previous question in answering the next one. For example, a kid in Google’s demo video asked the Home ‘how many stars are in our galaxy?’, after getting the answer the kid immediately asked which was the nearest. Google was able to recognize that by asking ‘the nearest’, the kid was referring to the same context as the first question. This is something that Amazon has yet to develop with its Echo as it cannot recognize separate questions to be related which each other.
Let’s go to their ‘friendliness’ with other devices. Alexa doesn’t really sync in with another Alexa. Meaning, having two Echo’s in the house won’t really mean they would be cooperating. But Google Home ‘speaks’ with other Chromecast devices.
Really Smart: Google Assistant
As mentioned earlier, the Google Home is a good conversationalist in a way that it has contextual awareness. This feature of the Google Assistant is actually now available in all Android devices. During the conference, the developer first asked Google what movies were playing tonight. After Google set out a list of the movies, the developer then just mentioned ‘We want to bring the kids this time’, just that, no questions. And Google then listed out kid-friendly movies. With this, Google has leveled up on the personal virtual assistant technology.
Android Wear 2.0
Developers of the Android Wear have also announced recent updates to the watch. Whatever Watch Face the user would choose can now display any data from any app. Also, the watch can be used to send short text messages as it would be able to recognize handwriting. But the notable update for this wearable, audio-wise, is in its fitness feature. Put away awkward arm bands to carry your phone: The Android Wear can now sync with your Spotify so you can play your music on-the-go.
Partnership with HARMAN
Apple has teamed up with the famous audio company Beats by Dre, Google has announced in this year’s I/O their partnership with HARMAN. The renowned technology company is expected to bring its 80-year old audio heritage in collaboration with Google to bring success to Ara, Google’s new modular device. The two would also be working on Project Soli, a sensor that would enable touchless interactions through the use of radar.
Android High-Performance Audio
Absolutely underrepresented in most Google I/O articles are the updates to Android’s High-Performance Audio. While the term sounds not so spectacular, it means a world for DJs and Producers:
- USB Digital Audio
- High-Resolution MIDI
- Round-Trip Latency <=20ms
This means, in near future, DJ software can be operated and controlled by MIDI DJ hardware also on Android – up until now that was not quite possible, because the latencies were so high that a useful DJ handling was simply not possible. If you’re still unsure what the benefits of Android’s High-Performance Audio is, grab a coffee and listen to these 30 minutes of the conference.
Google has definitely excited fans with the many developments they’ve announced. Will they be as great as they sound? We’ll see soon – Google Home is said to be released in fall 2016.
Rebecca and Fluky