Tag: googleassistant

CES showed us smart displays will be the new normal

Before the start of CES 2018, the only real smart speakers with a display were the Amazon Echo Show and the Echo Spot. But now that Google has partnered with several manufacturers to make a whole line of Echo Show rivals, a bona fide new device category has been born: the smart display. And based on the devices revealed this week, I believe the smart display will slowly start to outnumber smart speakers and will likely be the norm going forward.

The simple reason for this argument is that the display makes such devices much more useful. Sure, you could have Alexa or Google Assistant tell you there's a Starbucks 1.5 miles away from you. But wouldn't it be nice to actually see where it is on a map? Or if you wanted to know the time, you could just, you know, look at the screen. Or if you wanted to know who the artist of the song is but couldn't be bothered to interrupt the track, you could do the same. That extra visual layer is really useful, especially for quick, glanceable information.

Of course, you could've made this same argument months ago when the Echo Show debuted. But these new Google Assistant displays are so much better in almost every way. For example, when you make a search query, it won't just spit out a short generic answer with the transcript showing up on-screen; it'll actually appear in a way that makes sense. So if you search for "cornbread recipe," the display will offer an array of recipes to choose from. Tap on one and you'll be presented with a lovely step-by-step recipe guide, all without having to install any additional skill or action.

Or if you ask a Google Assistant smart display to play relaxing music, it won't pick out a random playlist and start playing a song you don't want (something that happens quite frequently with the Echo). Instead, it'll offer a visual selection of playlists, which you can then scroll through and pick the one you want. Perhaps my favorite feature is when you ask for directions. It will not only show you the map on the screen but also send those same directions straight to your phone without you having to ask.

Plus, Google has now opened the door for so many more companies to start making smart displays. At CES, we saw Lenovo, JBL and LG show off their versions, each with very different designs. Eventually, even more companies will join the fray, adding their own spin on what a smart display looks like. With so many options on the market, there'll soon be a smart display for every kind of home. Amazon might've introduced the smart-display concept, but Google will be the one to democratize it.

And this is just the beginning. Smart displays can be incorporated in more than just a little 10-inch prop on the table. Personal assistants are already in smart fridges from LG and Samsung, so it doesn't take much imagination to think that Alexa and Google Assistant displays could take over the rest of your home. Imagine a smart display not only on the front of your fridge but also in the kitchen TV or maybe the bathroom mirror. Soon smart displays will be everywhere. CES 2018 was just the beginning.

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Google won the voice assistant popularity contest at CES

CES 2018 kicked off with a major Google presence on the show's front doorstep. Nathan's already explained why the company may have decided to appear at the world's biggest tech show with such strength, but halfway through the show, I get the feeling that the gambit's paying off. Google Assistant is eroding the lead established by Amazon's Alexa, arguably the internet company's biggest voice assistant rival, and it's doing it with better devices, wider functionality... and free donuts for anyone at CES.

With Google bringing its Assistant to smart displays (not to mention more TVs), it's obviously chasing Amazon's own Echo Show assistant in a major way. It's also done it with arguably better products: Lenovo's 8- and 10-inch Smart Displays offer better-looking screens and more premium (read: less janky-looking) hardware than own Amazon's debut smart display.

Adding screens to a voice assistant helps to discriminate between what Alexa and Google Assistant are capable of, and Google really tried to capitalize on this durin booth demos that ran through all the ways it can fold in Gmail, your Calendar and Google Maps into its assistant.

But I (and possibly you, Engadget reader) knew that. Google's CES 2018 booth isn't for a guy that's been working tech shows for over six years: it was to demonstrate exactly what's possible with voice assistants for people that didn't realize they probably already had one on their smartphone.

The huge Google stand was in the lot right outside the convention center, sharing space a few hundred yards away from Engadget's own trailer. This means anyone can get to it, and given how much it stood out from other exhibitors on the lot, it was an obvious draw for the public. Google had giant gumball machines offering free Google swag to all -- including Home mini smart speakers -- while more people lined up to tour the Google Assistant experience, a room filled with Google-powered gadgets, or just to simply claim a free donut ("20-minute wait"). We like free stuff.

Nicole Lee, Engadget

Google Assistant's arrival on cars is slightly more evolutionary, it'll fold itself into Android Auto -- software that already had voice recognition. This will add smart home controls from the driver seat, as well as access to YouTube and more. It's a no-brainer, but for Google, it's an easy way to increase the ubiquity of its Assistant. Of course, Amazon is moving similarly: Toyota is the latest to announce that Alexa support was coming to its new car fleet. The likes of Ford and Hyundai have also stated similar intents. At least with Android Auto, there's, once again, a display to add visual answers to your verbal information requests.

Amazon isn't standing still: Alexa is coming to Windows PCs, which is great news for the retailer, but not for Cortana, Microsoft's own voice assistant. Across the rest of CES, Google seemed to go toe-to-toe with Amazon's voice assistant when it came to new smart devices. For every pair of Alexa-compatible smartglasses, there was a smart lock that had its hooks in Google's option.

White goods maker Whirlpool continues to hedge its bets and offer both voice assistants. At this point, that might have been the wisest choice of all.

LG puts Google Assistant in its own touchscreen-equipped speaker

Google Assistant's fingerprints are all over the CES 2018 show floor, but it's especially easy to see on a few new Android Things-powered devices. This LG ThinQ Google Assistant Touch Screen Speaker is one of them, and like Lenovo's Smart Display, it's built on a Qualcomm Home Hub Platform.

On the show floor, it smoothly scrolled through demo applications popping up info in ways we're used to seeing on our phones or through Android Auto. So far all the demonstrations only include Google apps like Duo, Maps, Music, Photos and YouTube -- currently MIA on Amazon's Echo Show -- so we'll be watching carefully to see how the device's capabilities expand as developers dig into Android Things, which leans on existing tools to create new apps for these devices.

According to Qualcomm, this more powerful version of its platform (SDA624) can drive a Full HD+ display, capture 4K video and support Tensor Flow for on-device machine learning. Also, like Lenovo's speaker, this one has a physical switch to turn its camera off. WiFi and Bluetooth links are present behind its 8-inch touchscreen and like several other LG products on display, it has audio tweaking courtesy of Meridian Technology, but so far the company hasn't confirmed any other details.

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Source: LG

TiVo DVRs will take commands from Alexa and Google Assistant

You won't have to use TiVo's in-house voice control to steer your DVR in the near future. TiVo has unveiled plans to add smart home integration, including voice control through Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant. If you have a supporting device like your phone, an Echo or Google Home, you can control your DVR without reaching for the remote. PCMag describes the functionality as different depending on which voice assistant you choose. Alexa is more about straightforward navigation control, while the Google Assistant support is more about searching for shows and tying in with other devices (such as dimming the lights when you're ready to watch). However, it's also adding IFTTT support that could deliver a lot more when combined with speakers and other smart home devices.

TiVo envisions IFTTT recipes that could automatically turn the TV to ESPN when you arrive home, pause what you're watching when the doorbell rings, or send an SMS if your children try to unlock your DVR's parental controls. Pre-programmed commands will even automatically skip past commercial breaks. If you spend a lot of time in front of the TV, you may not have to touch your DVR controls much, if at all.

Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT support should reach TiVo set-tops over the next few months, so you'll need to be patient. When you combine this with the company's Next-Gen Platform, however, it's evident that TiVo is determined to stay relevant in the streaming era.

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Via: PCMag

Source: TiVo

B&O will add Google Assistant to its connected speakers this year

Earlier today at CES, Google detailed how its Assistant would be available in more cars, headphones, speakers and other devices in 2018. Bang & Olufsen connected speakers are on that list. The Danish audio company already allows voice control through a Google Home speaker, but later this year the feature will be available directly on some of the company's gear.

There's no word on exactly when the update will arrive or what models will be included, but it's always good to see the latest features being added to existing gear rather than having to buy something new. And that's all the better when it comes to the likes of B&O where audio gear requires a significant investment more often than not. Of course, Google Assistant is also making its way to speakers from Sonos, JBL, Klipsch and more, so you'll have a lot of options in the months to come.

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Klipsch speakers are getting Alexa and Google Assistant voice control

Voice control was all the rage at CES 2017 and this year's show appears to continue the trend. This time, another big name in audio is getting into the game: Klipsch. The company will have options for both Alexa and Google Assistant, so you'll have some choice when it comes to the new feature and new audio gear.

For Alexa integration, Klipsch is employing Amazon's Connected Speaker APIs to enable you to control its speakers with commands spoken to any device equipped with the virtual assistant -- like the Echo or Echo Dot. Any of Klipsch's Stream wireless multi-room speakers can take advantage, including Reference RSB-14 and RSB-8 sound bars, the Three Heritage wireless speaker, RW-1 wireless speaker and both the Gate and PowerGate amps. While there's no definite arrival date just yet, the company says current owners can expect a free firmware update to deliver Alexa controls in "early 2018."

As far as Google Assistant goes, Klipsch will debut new versions of its Three and One Heritage series speakers with the voice controls in tow. While the new Three is slated to arrive this fall for $499 (same price as the current model), the One with Google's virtual assistant won't ship until spring 2019. And when the One does arrive, it'll cost $50 more than the regular model that's available now at $349. Even with the longer wait, Klipsch will have some of the better looking options for voice-controlled audio gear when those two devices start shipping.

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Sony’s 2018 4K TVs keep the focus on OLED, HDR and Android

Last year Sony kicked off the year by adding OLED and HDR to its lineup, then later pushed Google's Assistant AI as an upgrade for its Android TV platform. In 2018 the company is sticking to those basics on its latest 4K TVs with a few tweaks. It will once again offer OLED TVs in 55- and 65-inch sizes, this time with an updated version of its technology that broadcasts sound directly from the display itself.

Now dubbed "Acoustic Surface," this A8F series appears to pack the upgraded version of Crystal Sound that LG Display is showing off, with support for 3.1 channels of audio instead of the A1E's 2.1. There's no word yet on price, but last year's models launched at $5,000 and $6,500, and currently sell for around $3,000/$4,000.

Sony X900F 4K TV

If those OLED TVs are a little too expensive, then Sony is still offering LCD options as well, with the X900F series. Inside these local dimming LED screens is the same X1 Extreme Processor Sony's using in the A8F, however, it says that new "X-Motion Clarity" tech is in play to reduce blur during fast motion without losing brightness. The X900F will be available in 49-, 55-, 65-, 75- and 85-inch sizes later this year.

All of Sony's high-end TVs are still Dolby Vision HDR-ready, run Android TV and will ship with Google Assistant built-in. Just like previous models, its voice command service is not always listening but can be activated by a button on the remote. Hands-free control is possible if you have an Amazon Alexa device, Google Home or one of Sony's own smart speakers.

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Source: Sony

Hogar’s Google Assistant speaker has a built-in smart home hub

Hogar Controls has unveiled the Google Assistant-powered Milo Smart Home Speaker with a built-in home hub that supports the Z-Wave Plus and Zigbee home automation standards. The versatile device can get you the news and weather from Google's AI, stream music across Bluetooth and WiFi, and control your blinds, lights, locks, thermostats and other devices via the hub.

Other features include a touch controller, a three-microphone array that allows voice recognition even when you're not close to it, a speaker with a 2-inch driver plus dual two-inch passive radiators for "clear highs and deep bass," and an aluminum and fabric design, in light gray or black.

Hogar said the Milo is the first-ever smart speaker with Z-Wave Plus, but Toshiba recently released its own smart speaker/hub combo, the Symbio, with that feature (the Symbio also includes a camera). Nevertheless, the products highlight a bit of a trend at CES this year to put home hub features in smart speakers, since they're often sitting in a central spot in your house.

That only works, however, if they do all their tasks well, and that's often not the case with all-in-ones. Both the Milo and Symbio are voice-controlled, for instance, but you'll also need to use an included app to power many of the smart home functions. Considering that such devices are generally marketed as being simple to use, the home automation functions might be too complex for the average buyer.

Google recently unveiled a "sync" setting for its own Home-powered devices that might make things a bit easier, however. For a user comfortable with Zigbee or Z-Wave Plus, the Hogar Milo Smart Speaker has a lot of functionality for the $149 price -- a hundred bucks less than the Toshiba model.

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JBL Link View is a Google-powered smart display with audio clout

While Amazon might have been the first to come to market with a smart display -- the Echo Show and the Echo Spot, respectively -- it's now no longer the only ones. At this year's CES, Google is announcing a slew of smart displays from several companies, and one of them is the JBL Link View from Harman International. Think of it as a Google Home, but with a touch screen.

Measuring 13 by 5.9 by 3.9 inches, the overall Link View looks a bit like a halved football, but with a display set in the middle. That display measures 8 inches across and features a HD 1280 x 720 resolution. And, because of the Google partnership, it works with Google Assistant as well as Nest cams and most other Google products. As we saw from the Echo Show as well as the Echo Spot, having a display in addition to a smart speaker is phenomenally useful. You can use the display for video calls, watching YouTube, follow step-by-step recipes and yes, watch YouTube clips.

Though there are many smart displays announced here at CES, the Link View might have an edge over the competition when it comes to audio. Thanks to its Harman roots, the JBL Link View comes with two front-facing 10W speakers, a rear-facing passive radiator for deeper bass, plus 24 bit HD audio streaming. There's also a built-in Chromecast for multi-room playback.

There's no word on pricing just yet, but according to JBL, it'll be in stores by summer this year.

Lenovo Smart Display hands-on: Google Assistant gets a new kind of home

In case you hadn't heard, Google's Assistant doesn't just live in phones, speakers and televisions anymore. You'll see the Assistant pop up in small, connected screens meant for use around the house later this year, and we just spent a little time with Lenovo's first efforts: the 8-inch and 10-inch Smart Displays. It's hard not to think of them as just a pair of surprisingly handsome tablets, but after getting a sense of how the Google Assistant works on a purpose-built screen, it's clear that Amazon's Echo Show has some serious competition.

But first, the basics. The 8-inch screen on the smaller Smart Display runs at 1,200x800, while the larger version's 10-inch panel runs at 1,920x1,200. Other than that, the two versions of the Smart Display are essentially the same. Both use Qualcomm's SDA 624 chipset, both have large vertical speaker screens next to the left of their screens and both use tiny sliders on their right sides to physically cover their built-in 720p cameras. The (definitely non-final) software I tested on the Smart Displays worked best in landscape mode, but you can turn either of the Smart Displays on their sides to stand vertically thanks to a handy triangular hump.

And don't be fooled: these aren't just off-the-shelf Android tablets running a special Google Assistant skin. Google Assistant director Chris Turkstra confirmed the Smart Displays actually run the Android Things OS and boot directly into the Assistant interface — you won't be installing apps or swiping through the usual Android home screens. (Well, at least without a little extracurricular hacking.)

But what are they actually like to use? Well, when they're inert, the Smart Displays are basically just digital picture frames that cycle though images in a Google Photo album. When you start talking to them, though, the Assistant's calming female voice responds with crispness and clarity through Displays' speakers. If you close your eyes and start talking to a Smart Display, the experience is nigh-indistinguishable from chatting up a Google Home speaker. That's a good thing, too: Alexa's deep ties to Amazon are nothing to scoff at, but if you're anything like me, having a voice assistant that can reach into the well of data I've already given Google gives the Assistant a distinct edge.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

As handy as Google's Home speakers are, though, they're not great at succinctly conveying lots of information. Google's move to embrace these small screens, then, is proof that pictures are worth a thousand words. I spent my time with the Smart Displays asking it to show me restaurants around Las Vegas, requesting YouTube videos to watch and fiddling with a fun little trivia game that should keep parties interesting. These are the sorts of basic requests I throw at Google's Assistant all the time anyway, but the screens really shine in areas you may not expect. Thanks to partnerships with online recipe sources like NY Times Cooking, the Smart Displays offered more nuanced, visual directions as you're trying to prepare some dinner.

More interesting are the ways the Smart Displays tap into existing Google products: video calls over Duo are both super-simple to initiate and worked fairly well despite some lousy Wi-Fi. If you ask the Smart Display for directions somewhere, they'll automatically show up on compatible smartphones. And if you're the sort who has a few Nest cameras around the house, tapping into them through these small screens is a breeze. What remains to be seen is whether -- and how -- third-party developers will work to build experiences for a completely new kind of Google product.

In general, the Smart Displays seem full of promise, even if I'm still not totally sold on the idea of festooning a home with smart displays. Aren't our lives already ruled by plenty of screens as is? Still, if you're already invested in Google's ecosystem, the Lenovo's new screens should slot into your life nicely. The 8-inch model will sell for $199 while the 10-inch model costs $249 -- expect both to be available sometime this summer.

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