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Today, Google came out with a slew of different hardware products. These includes two new Pixel phones, a new WiFi extender, a VR headset, and of course, the Google Home. There are lots of news articles that will give a run down of the speeds and feeds, but there were a few items that I thought were interesting.

  1. Google Home is an extension of Google Assistant.

Google Assistant seems to be the de facto replacement for Google Now and is much more integration. Google Home seems more positioned as the headless far field extension of this software, more than a standalone product. Good marketing work.

2. Are there only two microphones?

I didn’t see one up close and I’ll be eager to see a teardown, but it appears that there are two mics. This is OK. If this is the case, it means that good far field training for ASRs can reduce the load needed to pre-process audio.

3. “Over time we’re going to make it easier to send directions to phone”

This was weird phrasing which likely means directions won’t immediately be sendable to your phone.

4. Wavenet

There was initial discussion about advances in STT performance as a result of deep learning. There was hint of more voices to come, perhaps personalized to the individual user.

5. Actions on Google

There was discussion of how API.AI will come into play for developing conversational interaction. This is similar in some respect to Alexa Skills except that Google took a swipe at Skills, poking fun at needing to speak an invocation phrase. Instead, they categorized them as Direct Actions and Conversational Actions. Direct Actions are more for hardware controls and Conversational Actions work well for bots or other apps that need more information or to disambiguate requests.

6. Embedded Google Assistant SDK

In the last two minutes of the event, there was a quick mention of this new SDK. It sounds like Alexa Voice Service, where you’d be able to embed voice control into hardware. More to come in 2017, according to Google.

With Google also coming out with distributed Wifi pucks, it makes sense that those devices would be the next incarnation of the Google Home.

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