I constantly use voice commands to set alarms on my phone (so does Cookie Monster). Going into an app to tap around just seems so labour-intensive once you get used to just telling your phone what to do. This simple task is a gateway to performing many actions using your voice.
My favourite these days is ‘Okay Google, play some music’ to get something going on my home bluetooth speakers when picking a song seems like just too much work. I used the same command while driving this weekend so I wouldn’t have to glance away from the road – but it all started with the timer.
At Google’s annual I/O developer conference, a piece of hardware called Home was unveiled with the goal of making voice commands and search a normal, if not frequent, part of your home life.
As Google acknowledged on stage, Amazon is already selling a similar device now with some success: the Echo.
Amazon’s always developing ways to remove barriers between the desire or need for a product and purchase. Whether that’s free shipping or subscription services, it wants to be able to sell you something as you think you might want the product. Echo’s integrations with smart home devices like Nest (owned by Google), and ecobee provide some value in exchange for Amazon listening in on all your conversations.
Google has promised that whenever you talk someone will be listening.
I always imagined this was where Google was going with its purchase of Nest in 2014. But it seems that Google decided to put the device on your countertop rather than mount it on the wall.
While Amazon’s device is about straight-forward e-commerce, Home further’s Google’s goal of data collection in order to serve better ads. Whether you’re at your computer, using your phone or doing something else entirely in your home, Google wants to be just a thought away.
Shouting At The Cloud
As Vauhini Vara pointed out in the New Yorker, Google CEO Sundar Pichai described in a recent shareholder letter that devices themselves will fade into the background over time. Leaving us to simply interact with ubiquitous cloud service.
“We will move from mobile first to an AI first world,” Pichai wrote. There’s no doubt that removing the phone from the equation makes searching and performing simple commands easier. The privacy implication are simply Orwellian, though not a huge leap considering the information any cell phone delivers to tech companies.
For better or worse, Google has promised that whenever you talk someone will be listening.