“Nest asked to be included in a secret Google project to create a competitor to Amazon’s Echo, a voice-controlled personal assistant device,” The Information reports. “But the Google executive in charge of the project, which has not been reported on publicly until now, said Nest would not be involved in its development, according to a person with knowledge of the discussion.”
Amazon Echo launched in late 2014 by invitation only to Prime members, and became publicly available last summer. The device lets you ask its AI ‘Alexa’ questions or make voice requests like turning the lights on and off or playing music off your Prime Music account.
While Echo is useful for these little tasks, it’s notoriously bad at search. In our review, Alexa wasn’t even able to answer how much an Amazon Echo costs, nor could you attempt to have her add it to your Amazon shopping cart. Doing so instead leads Alexa to send you Web search results of your query. Recent updates have allowed Echo to reorder your previous purchases, but the Prime item only restriction makes this experience limiting.
With Google’s powerful search engine, it could build a much stronger competitor to Alexa in terms of its ability to actually answer questions or calculate driving times between locations. Echo is currently only able to estimate commute time between two locations, such as your home and work addresses. It can, however, help you call an Uber.
It’ll be interesting to see how Google might integrate its other properties into its Echo-like competitor, such as Google Now, Google Play Music, and Google Shopping.
Google’s last major hardware launch was its OnHub router, which also bares a bit of similarity to the Echo. We’ll see if the company decides to create an entirely new device, or pivot the OnHub to add more functionality.
➤ Inside Tony Fadell’s Struggle to Build Nest [The Information]