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Google Home Is More Than Just A Repackaged Chromecast

Google's home assistant device will also be an AI personal assistant and a smart home controller.

[Photo: courtesy of Google]

According to a story in The Information today, the new Google Home personal assistant "will essentially be a microphone, speaker, plastic top with LED lights and a fabric or metal bottom—wrapped around a Chromecast."

The story points out that the same person who managed the development of Chromecast, Mario Queiroz, is now leading the charge on Google Home, and that like the Chromecast, Google Home will run a ARM-based chip and contain a Wi-Fi chip.

Chromecast is a small media streaming device that plugs into a TV's HDMI port, allowing users to "cast" video from their phone or tablet onto the TV. Chromecast Audio is similar, but it connects to speakers, allowing users to play music from mobile devices on home stereo systems.

Indeed, the Chromecast technology will be an important part of Google Home, allowing it to assign music to specific rooms in the house. Its rival (and the pioneer in the category), the Amazon Echo, can't do that yet.

But it's pretty clear that Google intends for the Home to do more, lots more. There's the whole Google Now-style personal assistant and AI aspect, which will let the user ask the device questions, and allow the device to learn the user's habits to become more helpful as time goes on.

It's also clear that Google Home will act as a hub for controlling smart home devices like lights, locks, security, and thermostats. So it will have to include a special chip and some radios (beyond Wi-Fi) to communicate with those devices. A Google spokesperson did not have a comment at the time of publication.

It was pretty clear at Google I/O that the Google Home wasn't much more than a prototype, and that the product is still in development, bugs being worked out, etc. That was the reason given by Google's PR people for why the developers weren't talking much about the product and why none of the devices were on hand at the event.

So I'm confused by The Information's story. Home assistant products like Amazon Echo, by nature, contain a number of different technologies and skill sets. People do more when walking around the house than order music to be played in this room or that. Describing the Home, then, as a streaming device with some other stuff bolted on will likely prove inaccurate.

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