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Google hits back at Alexa with hands-free Android TV voice controls

As promised way back in January, Google Assistant has arrived on Android TV devices, starting with Nvidia Shield TV. The $200 streaming box now supports hands-free voice commands through its game controller, which has a microphone built in. By saying “OK Google,” users can launch videos from Netflix and YouTube; play music from several sources including Spotify; ask for information from the web; and control smart home devices. (To that end, Nvidia will soon sell a $40 USB dongle that turns the Shield into a smart home hub.) Google says Sony Bravia TVs will get Google Assistant in the “coming months.”

Although Android TV has supported voice commands since its debut in 2014, Google Assistant is visually slicker and supports a growing range of capabilities. And unlike Google’s Chromecast dongle, which requires a separate Google Home speaker for voice commands, the Shield TV comes with all the necessary hardware for hands-free control. Given that Amazon just announced a new Fire TV and a bunch of new Echo devices to control it, the timing of Google Assistant’s arrival couldn’t be better.

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