A bear case for Google Home - Tal Talk
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Tal Atlas

I build stuff, currently tumblr. In the past also worked on Delight, Gilt City, and OMGPOP.

Here I write about some of my favorite things: tech, hockey, and programming, with some tv/movies sprinkled in.

A bear case for Google Home

Or how Alexa learned to stop bragging and embrace limits

Last week at Google's annual I/O conference one of the more exciting announcements was that they were releasing a smart home assistant. Simply stated, they announced a competitor to the Amazon Echo.

The Home was one of several products announced that featured Google's new AI assistant and the general consensus was that this product would probably be superior to Alexa and the Echo.

Contrary to this, I think that, for at least the near term, the Echo will be better than the Home and even Alexa will be better than the Google Assistant.

Software

When it comes to the software these two run you'd think there's a huge edge for Google. They had been working on speech recognition for probably a decade longer than Amazon and are probably equally as far ahead with AI.

This doesn't matter though. Like other similar things AI has an uncanny valley. Inside the valley you think it can do anything you want, and sometimes you're right, but more often you're frustrated that it isn't working.

Alexa has a simple and relatively limited vocabulary but this is its strength and probably its design. By having a simpler set of functionality Alexa can more easily understand what you give it.

In this way Google assistant is easier to use initially but with even a modest investment Alexa is easier to use.

Making Google assistant simpler isn't something that's in google's DNA and until their tool can come out the other side of the uncanny valley Amazon will have a leg up.

Hardware - Echo vs Home

We haven't seen the Home yet so this is entirely conjecture, but I suspect that the Home will be inferior to the Echo for one simple reason: the microphones.

One of the premier features of the Echo is that it has many microphones mounted on the top. These work in conjunction to help better understand you, especially by isolating you from other noise. With very few exceptions the Echo is able to parse my commands even while music is playing, the tv is blaring, or other people are talking. Often I'll shout across the apartment or whisper to it when others are sleeping and the Echo will pick it up just fine.

I doubt that the Home will place such emphasis on high quality microphones and that will be its biggest downfall.

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