What we learned about Google Home at Google I/O 2017

Google kicked off the keynote for Google I/O today and shared a ton of information about the future of the company and its products. One of the most heavily covered topics of the day was Google Home, the standalone assistant and Bluetooth speaker designed for the living room. Google announced new features and new availability for Home, and we’re excited.

New Markets

In April Google announced that Home would no longer be a US-only product and would branch out to the UK as well. Well, Google took it one step further today and announced availability for Canada, Austrailia, France, Germany, and Japan coming this summer.

Proactive Assistance

If you own a Google Home, then you know that it’s great providing feedback when asked. If you ask what time the game is on or when your next meeting is, it’ll tell you. What Google is trying to focus on now is being more proactive with its reminders. Google says that it will accomplish this by understanding the “context of your daily life.”

Google Home will now light up to give you an indication that it has an alert for you. The example used in the keynote today was a traffic alert pushing up when you need to leave to make your appointment, but we can see a lot of practical applications for this feature like weather alerts, flight changes, and reminders.

Hands-free calling

A phone call is still the easiest and quickest way to communicate with someone and now Google Home is baking in support for phone calls. You’ll be able to call any landline or mobile number in the United States or Canada completely free.

One of the cooler features pointed out during the presentation works around the support for multiple users. Everyone has their mother saved as “mom” in their phonebook so how does Google Home know who to call when you ask to call mom? Well, it can recognize the voice of the person who gives it the command and call that person’s mother. Pretty cool stuff.

By default, calls will be made from a private number, but you will have the option to link your device to Google Home so calls can be made using your number. I know I have people in my life that won’t answer private numbers so this will be especially helpful when trying to reach privacy-minded family and friends.

More services

Google Home is a great Bluetooth speaker and it’s been helped by the integration of services like Spotify and Google Play Music. What has been missing, however, is Spotify’s free service. Until today. Spotify will be adding in support for its free tier of service, in addition, to support for Soundcloud and Deezer.

Not only will you be able to play more music, you’ll be able to play more of everything! Google Home is getting Bluetooth casting capabilities so you can play anything you want through the Home. Previously you would have to cast a service to the device instead of just connecting to it like you would a normal Bluetooth speaker, but soon you’ll have the option to use Google Home just like you would with any other speaker.

Last year Google announced support to cast YouTube, Netflix, and Google Photos to your television using nothing but your voice. Today, Google has announced support for a whole host of new services like HBO Now, Hulu, YouTube TV, Google Play Movies and TV, CBS All Access, Food Network, The CW, HGTV, Red Bull TV, The Travel Channel, Crackle, The DIY Network, Viki, and The Cooking Channel.

Visual Responses

Google Assistant has always been great providing you audio feedback, but now Google has announced support for visual responses too. These responses come in the form of apps like Google Maps or Calendar showing up on your phone or your television. When asking Google Home the next thing on your calendar, you can follow that up with a command for directions and will automatically show up on your phone. Super convenient.

If you have a Chromecast either plugged in or built into your TV, you can get Visual Responses on it as well. A new update will be coming to Chromecasts that enable the Visual Responses for things like checking your calendar, checking the weather, and more. The aim is to be completely hands-free. Support for YouTube’s recommendations and Watch Later lists was also demoed although we aren’t sure if support for your subscriptions will be available at launch.