Tech Watch: the virtual assistant

It may look like a salt shaker, but Google Home is the culmination of the firm’s AI prowess, voice recognition technology and access to a wealth of customer data

‘Ok Google’ 

This phrase lets the device know that you are about to tell it to do something, from checking a flight, to setting a timer for your oven, to turning on a song. Far-field voice recognition means that requests can be made from across the room. The device can also reach out to the user itself by way of an alert, to which the owner can then respond, "Ok Google, I'm listening". 

Person known

The device connects with a user’s Google accounts in order to contextualise their requests – accessing their lists and previous search histories. A new messaging app, Allo, comes complete with the Google assistant, so you can interact with it directly in your chats, either one-on-one or with friends.

"Because the assistant understands your world, you can ask for things like your agenda for the day or photos from your last trip. If you’re planning a dinner with friends, you can ask the assistant to suggest restaurants nearby, all in one thread," said the company in a May blog post. 

AI rivalry 

Referencing Amazon’s Echo virtual assistant, Google VP of Product Management Mario Queiroz insisted that the group was “going to do a better job.” The Amazon Echo, which costs £149.99, has an estimated 7m sales to date.