Google (GOOG, GOOGL) is rolling into CES 2019 with a whole host of announcements about its Google Assistant. Those revelations include new capabilities and partnerships that will further expand the intelligent virtual assistant’s reach and continue to chip away at Amazon (AMZN) Alexa’s position as the market leader.
We’re talking about everything from smart alarm clocks and kitchen displays to the ability to use the Assistant in Google Maps, with your TV or as your virtual translator.
But as Google grows the Assistant into new use cases, Amazon is growing Alexa at the same pace.
Google Assistant in new places
So far, Google’s Assistant has made its home primarily in smart speakers. There are a handful of smart displays like Lenovo’s Google Smart Display, but Amazon still has more Alexa-powered devices on the market. That’s changing this CES as a host of manufacturers debut new offerings packed with Google’s digital helper.
First out of the gate is Lenovo and its new Smart Clock with Google Assistant. Available this spring for $79, the Smart Clock includes a 4-inch, rectangular touchscreen display, a cloth housing reminiscent of the Google Home’s base, and USB port to charge your smartphone. This way you don’t have to worry about the Smart Clock taking up your phone’s power outlet.
The Smart Clock will connect with Google Assistant-compatible smart home devices, so you can control your lights and door locks from your bedroom. It also offers multi-room functionality, so you can connect the Smart Clock to another Smart Clock and play music throughout your home.
Amazon currently offers its own smart alarm clock, the Echo Spot, which includes a 2.5-inch, circular touchscreen display and starts at $129.
Whirlpool is also unveiling its new KitchenAid Smart Display at CES. Sporting a massive, 10-inch panel, the Smart Display is designed specifically for use on your kitchen counter. Google says the display will offer recipes via the Yummly app, as well as control your smart home devices.
To ensure you don’t ruin the Smart Display when you inevitably spill something on it while cooking, Whirlpool has made sure the device can survive getting splashed with liquids.
Google is also debuting its Google Assistant Connect. Essentially a bridge between non-Google Assistant devices and your Google Assistant-enabled speaker or display, the Connect has the potential to bring Assistant to a great number of gadgets in your home.
Google says the Connect can, for example, bring voice recognition technology to devices such as your air conditioner, even if your smart speaker isn’t in the same room.
Amazon also has an offering similar to this called the Amazon Alexa Connect Kit, which brings Alexa features to otherwise normal in-home appliances and devices via an Echo.
Finally, Google Assistant is coming to Sonos (SONO) speakers in 2019, though Sonos already works with Amazon’s Alexa. Assistant will also hit a slew of televisions this year from manufacturers including Sony, Hisense, TCL, Philips, Skyworth, Xiaomi, Haier, Changhong, JVC, and Toshiba. Samsung is also getting access to Google Assistant later this year.
Beyond landing on more devices, Google is also adding capabilities to its Assistant. A new feature called Interpreter Mode, available in the coming weeks, will let you ask the Assistant to act as your interpreter during a conversation. It will then automatically translate what you and the other person you’re speaking with are saying into dozens of languages. In other words, it should allow you to have a real-time conversation with someone in another language.
Google Translate has a similar feature, but isn’t quite as adept as Interpreter Mode sounds. Google says it will be testing the function at hotels in Las Vegas during CES as well as other hotels in New York and San Francisco as a means to help guests who don’t speak English.
On smartphones, Google says it’s bringing Assistant to Google Maps, so you can access the software’s hands-free features without having to dip out of the navigation app. A handful of third-party manufacturers are also revealing new in-car devices that turn your old, dumb car into a smart car. By plugging into your vehicle’s auxiliary jack and using your cigarette lighter, you can use Google Assistant behind the wheel in hands-free mode.
The most advanced technology in my 12-year-old Mustang is a CD player, so I’m excited to see if this works in the real world.
Google says it’s also bringing improved messaging features to Assistant, including functionality with apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Hangouts, Telegram, and Viber. You’ll also be able to read and reply to you messages via Assistant and auto-punctuate your missives. So you won’t have to say “question mark” or “period” when dictating a text.
It’s clear that Google is using CES to further solidify its place as a smart assistant leader. But Amazon won’t give up its lead easily. We’ll see how these new features and devices fair when they hit the market later this year.
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