Google unveils Google Home, to compete with Amazon’s Echo

By Deborah M. Todd. MOUNTAIN VIEW, California (Reuters) – Alphabet’s Google Inc. unveiled its answer to Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant along with new messaging and virtual reality products at its annual I/O developer conference on Wednesday, doubling down on artificial intelligence and machine learning as the keys to its future. Google+

Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management at Google, introduces Google Home during the Google I/O 2016 developers conference in Mountain View, California, U.S. May 18, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management at Google, introduces Google Home during the Google I/O 2016 developers conference in Mountain View, California, U.S. May 18, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai introduced Google Assistant, a virtual personal assistant designed to perform voice-controlled tasks, along with the tabletop speaker appliance Google Home.

Amazon’s Echo, a surprise hit that has other tech giants racing to match it, uses a virtual assistant called Alexa, a cloud-based system that controls the Echo speaker and responds to voice-controlled commands by users.

Like Alexa, Google Assistant can search the internet and adjust your schedule. However, Pichai said Google Assistant can use images and other information to provide more intuitive results.

“You can be in front of this structure in Chicago and ask Google who designed this and it will understand in this context that the name of that designer is Anish Kapoor,” said Pichai, pointing towardS a photo of Chicago’s Cloud Gate sculpture.

For Google Home, the Google Assistant merges with Chromecast and smart home devices to control televisions, thermostats and other products. It will also connect to Google’s new Allo messaging App, which is scheduled for release this summer.

Allo, a rival to Facebook’s WhatsApp and other messaging services, will feature end-to-end encryption.

Google did not offer a specific release date or pricing for Google Home, saying only that it will be available later this year.

(Reporting by Deborah M. Todd in Mountain View and Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Alan Crosby)

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