At its "Made by Google" event Tuesday, Google offered more information about its Amazon Echo-like Google Home device.
First announced at Google I/O in May, Google Home is a voice-activated, smart home virtual assistant hub. The device is capable of connecting to other gadgets around the home (such as the Nest thermostat) and completing basic tasks like playing music or searching Google.
Today we're learning that at launch Google Home will sell for $129 at Best Buy, Walmart, and Target. The device will come in a bevy of color options for the swappable base and includes a free six-month trial of YouTube Red. Pre-orders for Google Home start today and the device will ship on Nov. 4.
In the context of the smart home, Google Home's initial partners will be Nest, SmartThings, Philips Hue, and IFTTT.
Google says the design of Google Home was inspired by things like wine glasses and candles (although some may also suggest air fresheners) and that it's really meant to work in a hands-free way.
But when voice activation fails, there's a capacitive touch pad on top of the device for additional controls, as well as a mic mute button on the back so users can choose whether they want Google listening in for the so-called "hot word".
At the core of Google Home is the Google Assistant, which promises to give users an ongoing, two-way dialogue with Google. Google Assistant uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to get to know users over time, based on their behavior patterns and preferences -- essentially creating a personalized Google for each user.
Google Home and the newly unveiled Pixel phone are the first devices to have the Google Assistant built natively into the hardware.
"We are building hardware with the Google Assistant at its core so you can get things done without worrying about the underlying technology," said Google's hardware chief Rick Osterloh.
In terms of the smart-speaker showdown inevitably brewing between Google Home and Amazon Echo, it's still a bit too early to predict a winner. But most analysts agree that a smart-home play could work to Google's advantage if done correctly and ultimately boost its relevance amid hardware developers.
"The launch of Google Home with Google Assistant uplevels Google's play as a virtual assistant and is a natural extension of Google's path towards becoming the agent that sits between brands and their customers," said Forrester mobile analyst Julie Ask. "The 'holy grail' of becoming a consumer's virtual assistant will be hard for Google to obtain, but holds unprecedented business value if Google achieves this goal."
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