Amid pomp and hype once accorded only royalty, Google's digital assistant Home hits the market today for sale in the next month or so, along with a passel of other products, extensions, and expansions that aim to run at ever-evolving opportunity in smart phones and smart homes and the data and content that streams between them.
Algorithms and sensors that combine math and radio frequencies into artificially intelligent, voice recognizing devices--from Amazon in the form of the Echo and Dot, Apple's Siri, and now, from Google's air-freshener styled Home--are now in space-race mode.
Amazon has a two-year head start, and it boasts proprietary far-field voice recognition that enables Alexa--the persona with an ever-expanding repertoire of domestic skills--to hear and respond to people with assistance around the house. What's more, Amazon can tap its unmatched access to the knowledge base of all knowledge bases, the Cloud, where a hive of developers is at work on tens of thousands of new talents and performance attributes for Alexa.
Google, it seems, for all its emphasis on innovation, may have architectural blind-spots built into its product development process. Here, New York Times tech analysts Daisuke Wakabayashi and Nick Wingfield look at how it is Google may have been caught off-guard in the domestic digital assistant race, and why it may continue to lag other entrants into areas many believe Google should dominate. Wakabayashi and Wingfield write:
Google encourages its employees to spend 20 percent of their time pursuing new ideas beyond their usual responsibilities. Products like Gmail emerged from this policy, but it also fosters a mind-set that, according to one former employee, leads Google to chase too many ideas.
“Part of the problem is that it has a scattershot approach to things,” said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. When pursuing new ideas, he said, “they don’t always make big bets strategically.”
Google, however, is Google. The values Google brings to people, whether it's a device or a capability or a service, tend to start out along the fringes of what we regard as essential needs, and then they infiltrate inwards to where we can hardly imagine living without them.
So, whether or not Google succeeds in leveraging a relatively powerful and elegant inroad into home automation and technology with its Nest Labs products with its new Google Home Assistant is probably the secondary take-away from the Google October 4 event moment.
More importantly, it's about focus. In fact, Amazon, Google, Apple, and a number of other innovators are intent on creating "a-home-is-a-machine-for-living" interfaces and services for people. It's only a matter of time before enterprises like this shift from creating a device that sits somewhere on a shelf, to embedding such software into the workings of the home, artificially intelligent about how the house is working, for residents and for its immediate local environment.
Tesla--which aims its technologies toward transforming the way homes harvest and use energy, for instance--may be ahead of them all.