Tech giant’s gadget records your words and stores them within its mysterious data centres
AMAZON Echo better watch out, because there is a rival in town.
Google has just released a smart speaker in the UK called Google Home, which lets users search for information or control music using their voice.
What is Google Home?
Google is hoping we’ll all just get over our understandable fears about Big Brother-style surveillance and opt to buy its new Home device.
The electronic device is a voice controlled speaker that connects to your WiFi network and lets you talk to the device as if it were a human.
The tech titans insist there’s nothing creepy about installing microphones in ordinary people’s homes.
Yet their reassurances are unlikely to win over people who find it difficult to entirely trust promises made by gigantic corporations with a vested interest in gathering as much data about their customers as possible.
How does Google Home work?
The small cone-like device is a voice-controlled personal assistant that seeks to replace smartphones.
All owners need to do is utter the words “OK Google” followed by an order of some kind.
The answer to their query is then read out by a computerised voice.
If you want Google Home to stop listening to you, you can press a microphone mute button.
What is the price of Google Home?
At around £129, Google Home is slightly cheaper than the similar Amazon Echo.
Typically Amazon Echo devices sell for around £149.99.
You can also purchase a base to go with your speaker, with £18 fabric bases and £36 metal bases allowing users to customise their device in a range of colours.
In comparison, Amazon Echo just comes in two formats, black and white.
Is Google Home like Amazon Echo?
Google Home works a bit like Amazon’s Echo in that it allows owners to perform small tasks using voice commands.
However, Google Home is slightly different to its Amazon counterpart, because it allows users to ask follow up questions to their initial request.
Another difference are the resources the devices use in their smart speakers.
Google uses YouTube Music, Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, and iHeart Radio.
Meanwhile Amazon Echo opts for Amazon Music, Prime Music, Spotify Premium, Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and Audible.
Both Google and Amazon’s gadgets take recordings of their owners’ words and beam them back to back to base.
When the devices are switched on, they are more or less always listening.
Where can you buy Google Home?
Google Home is available to purchase from Maplin, Currys PC World, John Lewis and Argos.
Many stores are offering promotional deals to entice customers to buy from them.
- John Lewis: £129, including delivery. You can get two years of care cover for an extra £10.
- Maplin: £129, including delivery.
- Currys: £129, including delivery. You can get three months on Google Play Music for free when you buy this product (then £9.99 per month after this).
- Google Store: £129, including delivery.
- Argos: £129, including delivery. You can get three months on Google Play Music for free when you buy this product (then £9.99 per month after this).
The device will be released in the UK in June, the tech giant told the BBC.
What can Google Home do?
There are many different functions of Google Home.
These include (among others):
- Music control
- Asking for weather forecasts
- Local area guides
- Flight information
- Light control
- Traffic information
- Live sporting updates
- Lamguage translation
- TV control
Here’s what Google says about the privacy implications of its ‘Home’ gadget
“Google Home listens in short (a few seconds) snippets for the hotword [which activates the device].
“Those snippets are deleted if the hotword is not detected, and none of that information leaves your device until the hotword is heard.
“When Google Home detects that you’ve said “Ok Google,” the LEDs on top of the device light up to tell you that recording is happening, Google Home records what you say, and sends that recording (including the few-second hotword recording) to Google in order to fulfill your request.
“Google stores data about our conversations on its servers, which reside in its data centers.
“We use data to make our services faster, smarter, and more useful to you, such as by providing better search results and timely traffic updates.
“Data also helps protect you from malware, phishing, and other suspicious activity.”
Is Google Home safe?
Of course, one thing Google’s device won’t understand is the feelings of people who don’t want microphones inside their home.
Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh told the BBC: “The trick… in these products is trying to really understand what people are asking for.
“We’ve got so much history with people using our search products and people using voice queries through Android phones… that we’re able to much better answer these types of questions.
“All this data really helps in us making sure we understand what the user is looking for.”
Is it worth really trading your privacy for the ability to ask a computer to tell you the football scores?
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