SAN FRANCISCO — When Amazon introduced its Echo device in late 2014, Google executives were caught off guard. For years, they had predicted the creation of a virtual assistant that would answer questions or help accomplish tasks, and they focused on building that capability into smartphones and tablets.
After what seems like an eternity, Google is set to release its answer to Amazon's Echo – The Google Home. Despite Amazon gaining nearly a two year advantage, Google need not panic as the demand for artificial intelligence driven personal assistant type devices is predicted to sky-rocket.
Amazon took a different approach and created the Echo, a device with the sole purpose of showcasing the company’s artificially intelligent assistant software, called Alexa. Since then, the Echo has become a surprise hit, vaulting Amazon ahead of Google in a race to build technology that interacts as humans do. Users can ask Alexa to play music, dim the lights or call for a ride.
For Google, whose name is synonymous with finding answers on the internet, Amazon’s success with Alexa exposed a vulnerability. Google, along with its parent company, Alphabet, has invested heavily to solve the technology world’s toughest problems, but it often trails competitors in turning those advancements into products and businesses.
On Tuesday, Google is expected to finally unveil its answer to the Echo, alongside new smartphones and tablets. The Google Home device, which looks a little like an air freshener, is expected to go on sale later this month.
Google Home is powered by what Google calls the Assistant, which uses artificial intelligence to understand what users are saying and respond conversationally with the best answers. Google introduced a messaging app last month that incorporates the Assistant, and the company plans to add the feature to its latest smartphones and tablets.