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Google Home Smart Speaker Now Supports Multiple Users

Google Home received a major update to its voice recognition system on Thursday that lets owners set up the smart speaker to recognize multiple account holders. The software update means that up to six people can connect their Google account to one speaker and Google Assistant will be able to distinguish users by the sound of their voice. Amazon is said to be working on a similar feature for its Echo range of devices. The feature works by listening to how individual users say the phrases "Ok Google" and "Hey Google", and then runs the samples through a neural network that can detect certain voice characteristics and match vocal analyses in a matter of milliseconds. Google says the process happens "only on your device" and the samples aren't sent anywhere else. ArsTechnica asked Google how confident it was in the speaker's ability to distinguish users only by voice. Google responded by explaining that the feature was still being refined. "We don't recommend that users rely upon voice identification as a security feature," said the company. To enable multi-user support, owners need the latest version of the Google Home app. If the app doesn't highlight the new feature, click the icon in the top right to see all connected devices. After selecting the Google Home speaker from the list, tap "Link your account" and the app will run through the process that teaches Google Assistant to recognize your voice. The feature began rolling out in the U.S. yesterday, and Google says it will expand to the U.K. "in the coming months".

Nest Earth Day Discounts Include $30 Off Learning Thermostat, $50 Off Combo Purchase With Google Home

Nest recently announced a new discount has launched for customers looking to purchase the company's Nest Learning Thermostat, allowing them to buy the IoT temperature-controlling device for $219 on its website, totaling $30 in savings. Nest founder and chief product officer Matt Rogers announced the temporary deal in a blog post this week, which he said is tied into upcoming celebrations surrounding Earth Day. As such, Nest Learning Thermostat's $219 price tag will only remain available to customers until Earth Day, on Saturday, April 22. In the post, Rogers mentioned that since the Nest Learning Thermostat's launch in 2011, the device has "saved over 12 billion kWh of energy," which equates to "enough to power New York City for 81 days." For us, home isn’t just an address where we raise our families. It’s the world we inhabit, and it’s our only one. As the late Carl Sagan noted in his book Pale Blue Dot, “On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives." So it’s up to us to take care of Earth, for all the generations to come. In honor of Earth Day, we want to help more people save energy with a Nest Thermostat. Reversing decades of global warming is a huge challenge. But we believe that together, we can change climate change. Customers also interested in Google Home have a chance to save a little more as well, as Nest also announced a combo deal where purchasing both the Nest Learning Thermostat and Google Home at the same time will earn users $50 in savings. Instead of paying $378 for

Burger King TV Ad Highlights Voice Recognition Challenge For Smart Speakers

Burger King made headlines yesterday when it began running a 15-second television ad made to intentionally activate Google Home speakers and Android phones within earshot. The simple commercial involves someone posing as a Burger King employee who leans into the camera to ask the question "OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?" – a request designed to prompt Google virtual assistants nearby to start reading the burger's Wikipedia entry. To the relief of many, Google quickly moved to prevent its Home speakers from responding to the ad by registering the sound clip and disabling the trigger. Voices on TV have been inadvertently triggering smart speakers for months now, but the ad represents the first attempt by a company to purposely hijack users' devices for commercial gain. One likely reason Burger King chose to target Google Home rather than iPhones is that unlike Apple's Siri, the virtual assistant cannot be trained to recognize a particular user's voice, which highlights one of the main issues with connected smart speakers currently on the market. As it stands, Google Home can only be used with a single Google account at a time, and lacks the ability to differentiate users by their voice patterns. Google has said its ultimate goal for Home is to be able to identify different people in the same room – and hints of multi-user functionality have briefly appeared in the Google Home app – suggesting some sort of voice identification feature is likely coming. Likewise, Amazon is known to be working on a similar system that would allow its Echo range of

Google Home Arriving in the U.K. on April 6, Priced at £129

Google has revealed that its Amazon Echo rival, Google Home, will arrive in the United Kingdom on April 6. The announcement was made on Tuesday at an event in London, where it was also revealed that the British version of the connected smart speaker will deliver news briefings from several U.K. media outlets including The Guardian and the BBC. Rollout of Google Home beyond American shores has lagged behind its main rival. The Echo range of speakers was released in Germany and the U.K. back in September 2016, allowing Amazon to gain an early foothold in the British market over the holiday period. Google's voice-activated speaker has also recently been dogged by accusations that its virtual Google Assistant responds to some questions with dubious answers because of flaws in the way its online search algorithm operates. Google Home will cost £129 when it arrives in the U.K. next month and will be available from the Google Store, Argos, Dixons, John Lewis, and Maplins. Google is also launching colored bases, costing £18 for fabric and £36 for metal

Google Home Speaker Criticized For Spreading Fake News

Google's search algorithms came under renewed fire on Sunday after the BBC highlighted examples in which the company's Google Home smart speaker promotes "fake news" and conspiracy theories through its virtual assistant. BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones tweeted a video yesterday that appears to show the smart device responding to the question "Is Obama planning a coup?" with the reply: "Obama may in fact be planning a Communist coup d'etat at the end of his term in 2016." In another example, Search Editor Land editor Danny Sullivan asked his Google Home "Are Republicans fascists?", to which it replied: "Yes. Republicans equals Nazis." As pointed out by Business Insider, the fault lies in Google's Featured Snippets feature, which corrals data from the web to provide the user with a supposedly definitive answer to a query typed into the Google search bar. A version of the feature powers Google Assistant, the company's voice-activated virtual assistant, which is built into the Google Home smart speaker and some smartphones. The algorithms Google uses to verify online sources of information appear to be at fault, but the issue is arguably worse on smart devices because the answers they provide are plucked from the web without context since users are not actively viewing the source. A Google spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement that "Featured Snippets in Search provide an automatic and algorithmic match to a given search query, and the content comes from third-party sites. Unfortunately, there are instances when we feature a site with

Google Home Smart Speaker Coming to the U.K. This Spring

Google has revealed to the BBC that it will bring its Home smart connected speaker to the United Kingdom this spring. Rick Osterloh, Google's vice president of hardware, told BBC reporter Rory Cellan-Jones that he believes the Home's "AI skills and vast data" will give it the edge over rival Amazon Echo. A Google spokesperson later confirmed to Engadget on Tuesday that the company's smart speaker would become available on the U.K market in the second quarter of this year. Amazon's Echo range of speakers have been on sale in the U.K. and Germany since September 2016, while rumors of Apple's entry into the smart home speaker market have yet to be realized on either side of the Atlantic. Google's Rick Osterloh tells BBC that Google Home is coming to UK in Q2, claims its AI skills and vast data will help it beat Amazon Echo pic.twitter.com/qs3oZabak0— Rory Cellan-Jones (@BBCRoryCJ) 28 February 2017 An exact release date and price have yet to be confirmed, but given the weak price of the pound, there's a good chance the Home will be priced close to its current $129 price tag in the

Amazon and Google Want to Turn Their Smart Home Speakers Into Telephone Replacements

Both Amazon and Google are working on turning their popular AI-based speaker products into replacements for a home telephone, reports The Wall Street Journal. The Amazon Echo and/or the Google Home could be used to make and receive phone calls, with the two companies planning to add the updated functionality as soon as this year. Smart home products like the Amazon Echo have become a staple in the lives of many people and the ability to make phone calls directly from the device would be a valuable addition. Google and Amazon are said to be working to overcome concerns about privacy, telecom regulations, and emergency services, plus the "inherent awkwardness" of making phone conversations via a speaker. The two companies are worried consumers won't want to speak on a device that is able to record conversations. Both the Echo and the Home continuously record audio to enable AI responses. One source that spoke to The Wall Street Journal said that Amazon would only collect metadata from phone calls rather than conversations themselves, and while it's unclear what Google would retain, a Home-based call service would likely resemble Google Voice, which does not record phone calls.Amazon is considering multiple options for how the phone feature could work, the people said. The Echo could get its own phone number. Call forwarding could enable calls to that number to be answered remotely on a cellphone, and vice versa. Another option is to sync a user's existing phone number and contacts with the Echo. Incoming calls would ring on the user's cellphone. Amazon and

Microsoft Opens Cortana Virtual Assistant to Third-Party Hardware Makers

Microsoft has announced it is making its Cortana voice assistant AI available to third-party device makers, with third-party developers also set to get access to the platform for integrating into their services on Cortana-powered devices. The company's approach is based on two software kits currently available for preview: A Skills Kit that allows developers to build apps that can be called up and controlled via Cortana using voice commands, and a Cortana Devices SDK, which enables third-party hardware manufacturers to bake in the voice-activated AI to new devices. Premium audio company Harman Kardon is set to become one of the first device makers to make use of the SDK in a new wireless speaker, set to debut early next year. In a short video released by Microsoft, the speaker looks vaguely similar to an Amazon Echo, but appears to feature a display at the top that lights up when Cortana is summoned. Given its long history of working with OEMs, Microsoft's decision to license out its Cortana AI to third party device makers could prove an adroit move in a smart speaker space currently dominated by Google and Amazon, both of which have released own-branded devices. Just last week, Microsoft unveiled plans to compete with smart devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo by developing a HomeHub feature for Windows 10 PCs that enables Cortana to be summoned from the lock screen and provide useful information on request. The Redmond-based company is also planning to enable Cortana integration with fridges, toasters, thermostats, and other Internet of Things (IoT)

Google Home Reviews: Handsome Design Not Enough to Outweigh 'Rough Around the Edges' Feel

Reviews for Google's new smart home speaker system, Google Home, have released this morning, bringing a collection of opinions about the newest entry in the wireless Bluetooth speaker category, which Apple is rumored to be entering in the future. Google originally introduced Google Home at its I/O Conference in May, and then officially announced it alongside the Pixel Phone at an event in October. The first batch of reviews for Google Home appear to mostly align with a single opinion: the speaker is an impressive addition to the home, but in some ways it's less reliable, and its Google Assistant-powered AI doesn't beat Amazon's Alexa in most instances. As is usual with a new product category gaining entries from various companies, the decision rests solely on personal preference of which company each user believes will deliver the best experience, and iterate most consistently down the line. Images via Engadget That's the way that Wired began its review for Google Home, which it says can sometimes feel "like sci-fi magic," and other times is simply unreliable. The sci-fi magic comes in with Google Assistant, which Wired says provides smart search results for random inquiries (“What’s the difference between acetaminophen and ibuprofen?”), but other times was "shockingly stupid," fumbling movie release date trivia and other questions.

Google Cast App Rebranded to Coincide With Impending Launch of Google Home

Google has officially rebranded its "Google Cast" iOS and Android apps to "Google Home," getting the mobile apps ready for the launch of its hands-free smart home speaker, similarly named Google Home. The new name also comes with a new app icon, new features, and some slight UI tweaks that make "the app easier to use." The old Google Cast icon (left) compared with the new Google Home version (right) The "Home" launchpad in the app now has a "Watch" and "Discover" section that lets you watch videos on any of the Chromecast-enabled apps you already have installed, or discover thousands of new apps available for Chromecast, respectively. Additionally, a floating magnifying glass button enables video search across multiple apps to make it easy to find the videos you want. Once Google Home launches next week, on November 4, the new app will be the single location for users to control all of their Chromecast and Google Home devices. A "Devices" button in the top right corner will guide users through easily pairing a new product to the app, and after pairing is complete they can adjust its settings, control audio and video playback, and more. Google Home is available to download for free from the iOS App Store [Direct Link], and users can pre-order the Google Home smart speaker itself for $129.00 from the Google Store, Best Buy, Target, and

Google Unveils Pixel Phone, Smart Home Hub, and More at AI-Focused Event

At its media event today in San Francisco, Google announced a few new pieces of hardware, mainly centering around the company's artificial intelligence initiatives and the confirmation of a new pair of smartphones called the Pixel and Pixel XL. Additionally, the company revealed the new Chromecast Ultra streaming dongle, a VR headset called Google Daydream, and gave more details about its connected smart home hub device, Google Home. Bits and pieces of information on the Pixel smartphones and Google Home have surfaced online over the past few weeks, correctly predicting most of today's announcements. Google Assistant The company started off by providing details on its artificial intelligence platform, called Google Assistant, which the company says is like "your own personal Google." The assistant can perform normal tasks like playing music, performing search queries, and providing navigation directions, as well as carrying on a normal conversation with the user. The company showed this by providing an example of a user asking for directions, then inquiring about restaurants at the destination's end, and finally setting a reservation at one. Google CEO Sundar Pichai also discussed a few intelligent updates coming to the company's search system, including improvements to image descriptions, better translation fueled by machine learning technology, and more human-like text-to-speech abilities. Pichai said that the assistant will "constantly get better" as the company introduces it to more and more users, which it's started doing with the recent launch of

Google's Own Echo-Like Device 'Google Home' Rumored to Cost $130

Google will formally announced its Wi-Fi enabled smart home device, Google Home, at its upcoming October 4 press event, according to a new report by Android Police. The device is rumored to cost $129 and the company will sell different color plates so users can personalize the look of Home. At $129, Google Home would be $50 cheaper than Amazon Echo, which offers a selection of similar services and features to users. Google originally discussed Home at its I/O Conference in May, detailing how users will be able to make voice-enabled Google searches, manage everyday tasks, enjoy music and entertainment, and more using hands-free "OK Google" voice commands. Continuing in the vein of other smart home speakers, Home can play and control music, sync with various online services that provide traffic reports and weather forecasts, and interact with other smart home products like Nest. It's believed that Google could use a version of its intelligent chat AI Google Assistant -- which it uses in Allo -- to fuel Home's voice-control abilities. The October 4 event is thought to be the launch pad of a few other Google products, including the $69 Chromecast Ultra (with 4K and HDR streaming), a new Daydream VR headset, and the company's new lineup of Android phones. The connected smart home speaker device is slowly becoming a popular platform following Amazon's success with Echo and Echo Dot. Apple is rumored to be entering the space with a Siri-enabled alternative, which might have facial recognition but is otherwise thought to offer many of the same search inquiries,

Google's Echo Rival is a 'Dressed-up' Version of Chromecast

Last month, Google announced plans for its upcoming Amazon Echo rival, Google Home, a Wi-Fi enabled personal assistant that enables people to ask Google search queries, manage everyday tasks, enjoy music and entertainment, and more using hands-free "OK Google" voice commands. Yesterday, a few more details emerged about Google Home, which will potentially go directly up against the smart device Apple is rumored to be working on. According to technology news site The Information, Google Home will share many of the hardware components of the company's popular internet-connected TV streaming device, Chromecast, relying on the same dual-core ARM-based microprocessor, 4GB of RAM, and a dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi chip. The similarities are apparently so close between the two devices because the same team responsible for the Chromecast headed up development of the Google Home. As a result, it is being described as "dressed-up version" of the company's existing device, with the addition of a microphone, speaker, plastic top with LED lights, and a fabric or metal bottom.  The Home is also expected to run the same Linux-based OS used on the Chromecast, though Google has discussed powering future versions with its Android mobile platform.  The upshot of all this is that the device could be extremely inexpensive to produce, given that the Chromecast currently sells at $35. That would mean Google being able to significantly undercut the $179 Amazon Echo. Notably, the Chromecast is also one of Google's most successful hardware products, selling 3 million units in the

Google I/O 2016: Assistant, Home, Allo, Duo, Android N, and More

Google hosted its annual I/O developers keynote at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California today, announcing multiple new products and services related to Android, search, messaging, home automation, and more. Google Assistant Google Assistant is described as a "conversational assistant" that builds upon Google Now based on two-way dialog. The tool can be used, for example, to ask who directed the movie Avatar, and to ask which other movies he has directed, and Google should be able to isolate the questions from the conversation and provide answers. The new Siri and Alexa rival, compatible with both voice and chat, will be widely available on Android, iOS, in the home, and elsewhere later this year. Google Home Google Home is a new Wi-Fi-enabled personal assistant device for the home that enables people to ask Google search queries, manage everyday tasks, enjoy music and entertainment, and more using hands-free "OK Google" voice commands. The Amazon Echo rival features a clean, color-changing design with no buttons, a speaker on the bottom, multiple room support, remote control of Chromecast and other speakers, compatibility with Nest and other popular home automation platforms, and more. Google Home can be used to make general searches, check flight statuses, track shipments, set dinner reservations, turn on lights or play music in certain rooms, receive real-time traffic and routing information, check your appointments, and more. Google Home will be available later this year. Pricing was not