Monday, September 3, 2018

Google To Release Display Equipped Smart Speaker By The Holiday Season

Virtual Assistants

Technology has fundamentally changed the world, and even more so, how we live our lives. Today, every aspect of the average person’s day-to-day life is either run primarily or with the help of technology. Cars, for instance, are now fitted with driving assistants like the Mercedes Benz BAS PLUS, which upon detection of danger, applies more pressure to the brakes, higher than that which has been applied by the driver if the same is necessary. 

Smartphones as well are now shipped with artificially intelligent virtual assistants allow you to run almost all tasks on your smartphone remotely without having to physically interact with the device. From making calls, sending text messages, to creating to-do lists, all this can be done conveniently with voice commands.

There are several virtual assistants, including Microsoft’s Cortana and Samsung’s Bixby, but 3 are currently dominating the market:

  • Google Assistant.
  • Apple’s Siri.
  • Amazon’s Alexa.

1. Google Assistant
Taking note of the shortcomings of the then Google Now, Google decided to give the AI assistant an upgrade, thus coming up with Google Assistant back in May of 2016. During the launch of Google Assistant, it was only available on Google Pixel smartphones, and Google had stated that they intended for it to remain as such, but later, the virtual assistant was available on Android devices running Marshmallow or later, as well as their smart speaker, Google Home.

Currently, Google Assistant is not only available on Android devices and Google Home speakers, but a range of other third-party developed hardware as well. For this reason, of all the virtual assistants, Google Assistant was voted the most advanced by Pocket-lint. 

Some of the devices which support Google Assistant include:

  • Philips Hue.
  • iRobot.
  • Whirlpool.

To give a brief illustration, with the integration of Google Assistant on Philips Hue, this thus means that one is able to control the lighting in their living room by voice commands. With iRobot, one is able to give voice commands to their vacuum cleaners, and with Whirlpool, standard kitchen appliances can be controlled by voice commands, for instance, setting the timer on your microwave.

2. Apple’s Siri
Siri is Apple’s virtual assistant, available on iPhones, iPods, and iPads. Siri was first launched with the revolutionary release of the iPhone 4s. Since then, Siri has been available on most Apple devices running iOS 5 and later.

Over the years, Siri has gotten even more intelligent and user-friendly. Today, for any iPhone running the latest version of iOS, Siri is able to connect and relay demands to the various applications on the device. For instance, upon request, Siri can read out your latest text message, and this is done by retrieving the information from the messaging application. 

Siri is one of the most intelligent virtual assistants in existence. To demonstrate this, Siri is compatible with Apple watches. This means one can communicate verbally with their Apple Watch, but the type of response you get depends on the command. For instance, if you’re simply asking for directions, the same will be displayed on your Apple Watch, but if you request a more lengthy and complicated task, Siri will open the specific built-in app on your iPhone that can complete the task.

3. Amazon’s Alexa
Simply put, this is Amazon’s AI(Artificial Intelligence) assistant, released initially with the Amazon Echo smart speaker. Like any other virtual assistant, Alexa can answer simple questions and perform specific tasks like creating and editing a shopping list. 

Alexa can perform a series of other personalized tasks all by voice command. This is owing to Amazon’s partnerships with different app developers as well as service providers, for instance:
  • Uber - One is able to call an Uber using Alexa.
  • The Guardian - Readers of The Guardian can request Alexa to read out all the top stories.
  • Spotify - Users can ask Alexa to play a specific song or personalized playlist off Spotify.
  • BMW - Owners can request Alexa for the battery as well as fuel status information.

Alexa is available on a range of devices, not only Amazon’s Echo smart speakers, and these include:
  • Philips Hue smart LED bulbs.
  • Ecobee4 smart thermostats.
  • Smart Locks by Kwikset Kevo.

Alexa, just like Google Assistant, is thus able to transform your home into a smart home, as its compatibility transcends Amazon’s Echo speakers and smartphones, but is also compatible with other third-party devices, specifically home appliances.

Smart Speakers

All the 3 virtual assistants discussed above, that is, Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa have all been integrated into smart speakers.

Smart speakers running Alexa include:

  • Amazon Echo.
  • Amazon Echo Plus.
  • Amazon Echo Dot.
  • Amazon Echo Show.
  • Amazon Echo Spot.
  • Sonos One.
  • Sonos Beam.

Smart speakers running Google Assistant include:

  • Google Home.
  • Google Home Mini.
  • Google Home Max.
  • JBL Link 20.
  • Lenovo’s Smart Display.

Apple has until now only released a single smart speaker running Siri, the Apple HomePod.

Display Equipped Smart Speakers

With the rising popularity of smart speakers the world over since the release of the original Amazon Echo, there’s a new shift in the world of smart speakers. Display equipped speakers.

Simply put, this primarily a smart speaker, but fitted with a screen meaning it resembles a tablet. However, these screen-fitted smart speakers will not be able to carry out the same features as the average tablet. Smart speakers fitted with screen displays allow for better and faster interaction with the device.

Earlier on in 2018, Google, in an unexpected move, announced that it was giving other companies the green light to manufacture screen-fitted smart speakers all of which will be run by Google Assistant, as opposed to Google developing the hardware themselves.

Some of these companies include:

  • Lenovo.
  • JBL.
  • SONY.
  • LG.

This was in response to Amazon’s Echo Show, but Google didn’t announce that it would be manufacturing any devices. However, Google is planning to release a brand new display equipped smart speaker before the end of 2018. The first ever screen-fitted smart speaker to run Google Assistant was the Lenovo Smart Display, although other companies are now manufacturing the same. 

So what are users generally to expect with the release of the Google smart display?

Google Smart Display

With the release of this highly anticipated product, this will be Google’s first ever attempt at manufacture and production of a display equipped smart speaker. 

So why should a Google Homeowner opt for an upgrade to a smart display?

  • Ability to make videos calls.
  • Get visual, not only audio search results.
  • Ability to better plan out your day and schedule.
  • Ability to watch videos.
  •  Browse through photos.
  • Whole new music experience.
  • Variety of options.

Ability To Make Video Calls
Back in 2016, Google released a new app called Google Duo which, similar to Apple’s FaceTime, allows users to make free and high-quality video calls. This will feature in Google’s smart display and will be a revolutionary step from Google Home’s ability to make voice calls. Because Google Home lacked a screen display, it could only make voice calls to any number on your contact list, regardless of whether or not the person owned a Google Home smart speaker. This is because the speaker would actually call the person’s phone, not their Google Home smart speaker.

With Google’s smart display, however, users will be able to make video calls using Google Duo.

Visual Results
The main feature that sets the smart display apart from other smart speakers is the fitted screen. With a screen, users will be able to get visual results of their requests to their devices. Visual results are especially important when using Google maps.

Yes, a standard Google Home can give you audio directions to the nearest mall or the fastest route to get to work, but visual results would be much more efficient. For those who are unfamiliar with street names, or can’t calculate Google Maps’ instructions, for instance, “in 400 meters, turn left”, a smart display will simply have the directions on the screen which for most people are easier to follow, as opposed to hearing Google’s audio instructions.

Also, Maps’ audio instructions may sometimes prove to be deceiving, hence with a smart display one is able to clearly map out and see the route suggested by Google. 

With a smart display, one is also able to plan out their trip before embarking on the same as the route is clearly laid out on the screen. This is, however, no possible with a smart speaker.

Plan Out Your Calendar
Today, most people’s schedules are synced onto their smartphones, or for those who own one, their smart speakers. This makes planning out your day very easy as first thing in the morning, one can request their Google Home, for instance, to read out their schedule for the day.

With Google’s smart display, however, one can just ask the device to pull out and display their schedule for the day. This will save on time as the user is able to visually see what appointments they’re looking for, instead of asking their smart speaker to read out the entire schedule for the day in an attempt to know what time their meeting with a colleague is for instance.

YouTube And Youtube TV
As far as media playback is concerned, Google Home speakers can only play music. Google smart display will, however, be able to play both kinds of music as well as videos.

Google owns YouTube. For this reason, Google will be looking to take full advantage of this fact and thus integrate YouTube into its smart display. This, therefore, means that Google will have an advantage over other display equipped smart speakers which won’t be run by Google Assistant, like the Amazon Echo Show for instance. In addition to listening to your favorite playlist on Spotify, users will thus also be able to watch music videos as well.

The Google Smart Display will however not be limited to YouTube videos alone. The device will also allow users to watch movies as well as their favorite shows. This is possible because of Google’s YouTube TV.

Developed by Google in response to cable TV, YouTube TV will feature some channels including:

  • ABC.
  • CBS.
  • FOX.
  • NBS.
  • ESPN.
  • FOX news.
  • The Disney Channel.

Google’s smart display will thus enable viewers to access a variety of paid video content through YouTube TV, and not limit them to what’s freely available off YouTube.

Browse Through Photos
Being a Google-run and owned device, the Google smart display will feature a series of apps developed by Google. A portion of these apps includes Google maps and Google photos.

With Google photos, users will thus be able to open and view their photo galleries, all by a simple voice command to the Google smart display. This is a feature that is lacking in the current range of Google Home smart speakers.

Music Experience
With the Google Home, a user could ask the device to play a specific song or a specific playlist. The Google smart display will, however, introduce a whole new music experience.

For starters, users will find it much easier to select a song or a playlist. For instance, some people may not always remember the name or the artist behind a new song. With the Google smart display, since all the songs are conveniently listed on the screen, the user can simply instruct the device to play “the 5th song on the list”.

Also, a user may hear a new song and not know either the name of the artist or the title of the song. With the Google Home, a user could ask the device for this information, at which point the media playback would stop, and the device would give audio results of this request. With the Google smart display, however, users will be able to request the device for information regarding a particular song to be displayed on the screen, as the song continues playing.

With the Google smart display, once a user requests for a recipe for lasagna, for instance, the device will be able to display a list of many recipes for the user to choose from.

Also, once a user asks for a step-by-step recipe, the device will be able to pull up a YouTube video of the same and play it on the screen for the user.


Amazon may have been the first to release a display equipped smart speaker, but it’s not the only company to have one currently out in the market. Thanks to Google’s authorization of other third-party hardware manufacturers to create these speakers, companies like Lenovo also have their own screen-fitted smart displays in the market.

Shortly, by the end of this year, Google is planning on having its own screen-fitted display which will be run by Google Assistant. The device is speculated to be revolutionary because Google already has some experience given its successful sales of smartphones and tablets as well as its existing partnerships with companies like Philips Hue. Also, the display equipped smart speaker will be able to perform some unique tasks like play YouTube videos, which may not be available to other similar speakers not developed or authorized by Google.

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