The smart home race has been going on for some time, but it still hasn’t quite caught on. There are different types of controls, lights, light switches, speakers and a myriad of other things, but they are all fragmented. Has a solution been found for that? It’s too early to tell, but Google is delivering the hub that will possibly one day control all of those external properties with one single device: Google Home.
Amazon Echo already had its turn in trying to fill the space of an always-listening home hub, but it mostly just works to set timers and turn off lights. Google Home has Google’s gargantuan data bucket to draw from, and it hopes that this advantage will separate it from Echo.
Introduced in May at Google IO, Google Home is a small speaker with an understated design meant to fade into your furniture. It’s not a black round tower like Alexa with a glowing blue circle. No, Google Home just wants to work for you whenever you need it, without you even noticing it’s there.
Some of the notable features of Home include the ability to control music, set timers, cast to Chromecast, query traffic, and, of course, asking Google mundane questions. That sounds pretty close to the Echo’s capabilities but there are some big differences, like the ability to ask follow-up questions.
But for as much as Google Home promises to do right with Google’s muscular intelligence, it’s still stuck in a time where every step towards the future just reminds you of how far away we are from it. Lack of support and basic mistakes still drag it down to the dumb, fragmented present.
You can play music on Google Home with services like Google Play, Pandora and Spotify, but you can’t control your Lifx bulbs because they are not yet supported (yet Phillips Hue is). You can ask how the traffic is to work, but it can’t set reminders (a function not yet available). You can even ask it to tell you a funny joke, but it can’t read out an email.
Google Home is supposed to bring the intelligent Google Assistant to your living room, but a lot of the time it feels like a half-baked service. The concept of a Google-backed hub to control all of the smart home accessories is enticing, but the full realization of that dream is still a few updates or generations away.
Google Home is a first generation product and early adopters will suffer a lot of the growing pains of a developing product, but it has a bright future. This is just the first of many “Google Home” products, and when you include Google Wifi and Chromecast, there’s a lot of exciting potential to grow.
UPDATE: Correction from our video review, Google Home is contextually aware. But unlike the Google Assistant on the Pixel, to continue a line of questions, you need to use the keyword “Ok Google” after every question.