[GADGETS] Is There an ECHO in Here?

Category: Gadgets

What’s better than the Amazon Echo (a.k.a. “Alexa”) digital home assistant? The answer can only be, “Amazon Echo and something to compete with it!” Competition spurs innovation and helps to discourage price-gouging; competition is the consumer’s best friend. So of course, I am pleased to see Echo get a new competitor. Read on for the scoop on Google Home...

Google Unveils Answer To Amazon Echo

Google Home is that new competitor - or will be, when it hits the market. Google told a swooning audience of developers and journalists at its annual Google I/O conference everything about Google Home - except when it’s going to ship and how much it will cost. Unfortunately, that is how nearly every product debuts these days.

We can deduce the likely price range of Google Home from the price of Amazon Echo: anywhere from $179 to about $215 depending on where you buy. The lowest price is Amazon’s price. Google may price Home a tad higher initially, if the company thinks it can sell Home as a better-performing device than Echo.

But it's likely the two devices will eventually be priced very near each other. And if history and market forces can be counted upon as reliable indicators of future developments, prices for both will trend downward, just as they've done for ebook readers, smartphones and other gadgets where competition and economies of scale work their magic.

Google Home - Amazon Echo competitor - home automation

Just like Amazon Echo, Google Home is a bluetooth speaker on steroids. It lets you use voice commands to make it perform an impressive array of tasks. Using a Wi-Fi connection, it will play your music, and fetch album notes from the Internet. It will change the temperature of your thermostat before you get home. It will add events or appointments to your Google Calendar and set reminders to go off hours or days earlier. It will read Bible verses aloud or order an Uber car. “And much, much more!” Amazon Echo touts over 900 functions, and it’s certain that Google Home will match virtually all of them, then add a few of Google’s own making.

Controlling home automation modules is one of the most important features of Amazon Echo or Google Home; these are personal digital assistants, after all, effectively the head butler or major domo of the digital household. Echo and Home work with the Nest family of smart thermostats and other home automation devices; Nest is owned by Google, so that may give Google an edge in developing new tricks for Home and Nest to perform together.

We Hear and Obey...

Google claims that Home is better at understanding spoken commands than Echo. I've not tried the Echo, but voice recognition on my (Google-powered) Android smartphone is amazingly accurate. Users can also ask a broader range of questions with reasonable expectations of getting useful answers; that’s because Home connects to Google’s vast knowledgebase of Google Search queries and relevant results.

While “OK, Google” will be the boring default “wake up” command that puts Google Home into “listen and act” mode, the device can be trained to recognize other spoken words for this and other purposes. “Yo, Goog!” may be a bit too informal; “Hey, Google!” is certainly within the bounds of possibility and taste.

Amazon Echo comes only in basic black, although you can dress it up in third-party “skins” or even crochet your own Echo case. Google Home will be available in a variety of colors and finishes, hopefully at no additional cost.

Bundled with Google Home will be Allo, Google’s almost-here instant messaging app that does more than just relay messages. Allo is to be released in Android and iOS versions this summer, and it’s destined for Google Home too. Allo’s machine-learning algorithms will help it answer your questions without leaving a conversation with other human beings. For instance, when three of you are discussing where to have lunch, one of you can ask Allo to find restaurants nearby that meet your group’s ever-narrowing criteria.

Resistance is Futile...

Yes, it all sounds like vaporware, a product that doesn’t exist but is announced anyway just to confuse the market and slow down the competition. Amazon has shipped over 3 million units of Echo since its debut about 18 months ago. Spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) to make people hesitate before buying Echo is certainly part of Google’s plan. But the search giant is deadly serious about releasing Home and making it a ferocious competitor to Echo.

That’s because Google and Amazon are competing for the same prize, and that prize is much more than a small space on your coffee table for yet another “smart” device. What both companies want above all else is data about you, your family, and your household. That’s where the real money is. That’s why it’s so important to Google and to Amazon (as well as Apple and Microsoft) to get you and yours hooked on telling Home or Echo (or Siri and Cortana) everything you want, need, plan to do, and more. But these gadgets are undeniably fun, useful and helpful. As always, there are trade-offs in life.

Will you be assimilated? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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This article was posted by on 19 May 2016

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Most recent comments on "[GADGETS] Is There an ECHO in Here?"

Posted by:

20 May 2016

Not for me. I hadn't even heard of Echo. But I'm not going to go down that road ... of needing to own Smart-enabled devices just so I can use them without lifting a finger. Plus I value my personal privacy and have no intention of broadcasting ALL my preferences.

Posted by:

20 May 2016

My, my, my - Isn't this marvelous! Another gadget that will know all about you and your home!!!

Bob has already warned us what NEST can do and the Amazon Echo or Goggle Home is just as bad! Does anyone want privacy??? Well, you will not get with Amazon Echo or Goggle Home or Nest.

Will not buy it, I want my privacy, that is why I work hard keeping it. :)

Posted by:

20 May 2016


Yet another spy machine. Just what I didn't want.

Posted by:

Jay R
20 May 2016

Should I impulsively buy Google Home......Google Home.....Google Home. Is the an echo in here? Leslie Nielsen made some funny movies. These two have taken one seriously.

Posted by:

John M
20 May 2016

Just another pond scum move by google, to collect and sell peoples personal info. google needs to be disbanded.

Posted by:

20 May 2016

The real question is - Do I really need one of these gizmos?

Am I beginning to sound like my old mum who thought that TV remotes were 'Devil spawned creations that promoted laziness'?

In reality far too complicated for my ageing grey matter.

Thanks for the info Bob but that's at least 10 good thick rib eyes that I would have to go without to get one ;)


Posted by:

Greg C
20 May 2016

Another solution looking for a problem to solve.
A friend has both the Echo & Echo Dot. Both are impressive in use. But, while these are a great toy and the integration with Spotify is perfect, I can't see me buying one anytime soon. And yes privacy concerns is a serious issue.

Posted by:

20 May 2016

I received an Echo for Christmas and use it for music and for grocery shopping. I tell Alexa what I need and when I go shopping my list is on the Alexa app on my smartphone. It's convenient and fun. I'd like to learn new uses for it, but just haven't spent the time to do so.

Posted by:

20 May 2016

Our privacy was long gone before these two items came along. That tv show "Person of Interest" is spot on! I don't see anyway to unring the bell.

Posted by:

top squirrel
21 May 2016

This exemplifies an age-old problem: technology can seduce us with its time-saving and convenience but, net, does it hurt more than it helps? A lot of these devices may be useful and even fun, but what of the destruction of your privacy they enable? Who asks these questions?
Shun Echo and Alexa if you like (I do and I have never had a Facebook account), but also know electronic medical records make every confidence you reveal to your doctor accessible to hundreds of people with no audit trail, courtesy of Obama's ACA, which helps some people in some ways but damages everyone's human dignity by destroying their privacy. Any poorly-paid clerical worker in a medical office you've never been to can access all your records--and bribes make it a private eye's Disneyland. Either deal only with practitioners not hooked into the system who use paper records, use some clever get-arounds, or do without medical care.
You can thank the computer.
You have some defenses, but that would take a book. Maybe Bob can publish a monograph on protecting your privacy in the computer age. It can be done, but it may take firm resolve to find a solution and the ability to think things through. Nobody can unring a bell, but there are ways to protect yourself.

Posted by:

Darcetha Manning
21 May 2016

I have no need for an Echo or Google Home. These gadgets will get old very quick, and everyone will move on to the next, newest gadget.

Posted by:

22 May 2016

Speaking of...Amazon Echo in the Today's Special on QVC Sunday 5/22 for $170...includes a lot of extras that you have to pay to have on Amazon and is ten dollars cheaper. Just in case anyone's looking for one. Comes with the custom skin-it and Audible.

Posted by:

23 May 2016

The only smart device that will ever be in my home is ME! (And that includes so called "smartphones" too.)

Posted by:

Chuck Johnson
23 May 2016

So yes, I've been thinking that Echo would be fun, but it way too expensive for a fun gadget. BTW, the voice recognition thing on my Samsung Galaxy S3 is totally useless.

Posted by:

anthony giambra
24 May 2016

Give me the good old days. When you used your brains to: flush your toilet, read a map for directions, and set your own thermostat.

The days when you called a company and got a PERSON to talk too; you hopped into your car, turned it on and drove away; when you actually hiked up a mountain, canoed down a river, or really rode a bike, without virtual reality doing it all for you.

In 50 years society will just be a bunch of FAT people playing with their virtual reality gadgets while letting their Smart machines do all their common simple chores.

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