As The AI War Rages, Google Assistant Is “Very, Very Likely” Coming To Nest’s New Secure System

When Nest introduced a new home security system called Nest Secure at a press event this week, there was one glaring omission from the announcement: An explanation of how natural-language AI created by Nest’s Alphabet sibling Google would eventually control all of it.

Back in May, at Google’s I/O conference, CEO Sundar Pichai said that, “we are rethinking all our products and applying machine learning and AI to solve user problems. And we are doing this across every one of our products.”  But only at the end of Nest’s launch event on Wednesday did cofounder Matt Rogers announce that Google’s Assistant will soon be available inside one of his company’s existing products, the Nest Cam IQ Indoor.

When I asked why the Assistant wasn’t already available in all the new home security products, Rogers laughed and said the addition of the Assistant to more devices is “very, very, likely” coming soon–including to the Nest Guard, the company’s new in-home controller for Nest products.

“You want to be able to interact with the system in every way possible,” Rogers said. Speaking to the Assistant through a Nest device, then, would join the Guard keypad and the Nest app as ways of doing that.

Matt Rogers

“So the Assistant might send you a notification while you’re on the way to work saying, ‘We saw you were the last one to leave the house; would you like to arm the system?,’” Rogers explains. Then the user could simply reply “Yes” and the Assistant would arm the system.

Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant all sit at the middle of growing connected home ecosystems that are competing to become the operating systems of our lives. That’s why, in connected home platforms and products, it’s becoming table stakes for companies to provide a natural language assistant to hear spoken commands to turn off lights or lower the heat. Users often don’t want to have to physically interact with devices and apps to make them work.

Consumers will expect the same thing from home security systems. This isn’t news to Rogers. But the Assistant would bring more than just voice recognition and natural language technology to the Nest ecosystem. It would also use machine learning developed by Google to understand each Nest user’s habits and make helpful suggestions. And it’s that deep Google AI that might give Nest products an edge over other home security systems.

I also asked Rogers if Nest’s products would soon be integrated with the Google Home natural language smart speaker. He didn’t say whether that was on the near-term roadmap, instead explaining that Assistant can be built into existing Nest products so that users can talk to their security devices in the same way they talk to Google Home. Rogers said it’s likely that two additional microphones will be added to the Nest Guard device to make it better able to hear and understand the voices of people in the room. This makes sense because the Nest Guard is designed to sit near the front door, waiting to be armed or disarmed by people leaving or returning home. Moreover, your entryway might not be an ideal place for a Home device.

Nest was acquired by Google three and a half years ago in 2014, and acquired the home camera company Dropcam shortly after. But from 2014 to 2016 its product lineup of smart thermostats, indoor cameras, and smoke/CO2 detectors didn’t change. Nest was slow to release wholly new products, and slow to capitalize on Google’s AI brain trust.

That began to change over the past year when Nest engineers began working closely with their Google counterparts to build Google’s computer vision AI into Nest cameras. It started with person recognition (distinguishing a human from a dog or a tree), and has progressed to facial recognition (matching faces in front of the camera with profiles of faces it’s seen before, like the postman). The person recogition is part of the free tier of service bundled with Nest Cam IQ units; face recognition requires that you subscribe to the extra-cost Nest Aware service.

“All of this came after the ouster of founder Tony Fadell,” writes Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson in a recent research note, “and although that’s likely in part a coincidence, it’s notable how much more quickly the company has appeared to be moving in the past year.”

Another explanation for why it’s taken a while for Nest to intermingle Google technologies into its devices is sensitivity over the possibility of Nest sending the data it collects in homes back to Google for purposes such as ad targeting–a scenario that people began worrying about the moment the acquisition was announced in 2014. It remains enough of a concern that the company has underlined the fact that its use of Google machine-vision technology does not involve it sharing the face matches it makes with Google.

Taking On ADT

A whole industry of companies, such as ADT and Vivint, provide a combination of professionally installed hardware and subscription monitoring services. Nest is now offering both parts, only the hardware part is do-it-yourself. Its $499 Nest Secure kit consists of a central brain device (Nest Guard), a couple of window/door sensors that also do motion detection, and a couple of Nest Tabs–half-dollar-sized keychain devices that log the user in and out of the security system.

If the system detects a human moving in the home when no one is supposed to be there, it can sound an 85-decibel siren and notifies the home owner via the app. The system might also send a notification to MONI Smart Security, a security monitoring service Nest has contracted with. MONI may then dispatch police to the home if the Nest system detects something dangerous like a break-in. Nest has not yet announced how much the MONI monitoring service will cost.

Nest isn’t the first company to try to rethink and simplify home security systems. Asked why he thinks its approach will work, Rogers told me it’s all about offering the right mix of automation and user control. “We could do everything for you, but we want to give you enough control to where you are still in the driver’s seat.”

Nest Hello [Photo: courtesy of Nest]

Along with the Nest Secure gear unveiling, Nest used its event to preview its first smart doorbell. Nest Hello–which will be available later this year at a price to be announced—is outfitted with a microphone, a speaker, and a high-quality camera. The camera uses AI to recognize that a person is coming up the walk, or even recognize a familiar face when the person gets close, regardless of whether they push the doorbell. If Hello recognizes the mail carrier, for example, it might notify the user through the app. Then the user can talk via the doorbell’s microphone and speaker. A user who is otherwise occupied and can’t speak can trigger a canned “just leave the package at the door” announcement.

Nest didn’t invent the doorbell cam, and will be facing stiff competition from both Ring and SkyBell. Both of those companies have products that can detect motion and suspicious activity around the doorway, take video of it, and send notifications to the user via an app. But with Hello as with its other products, Nest may hope the infusion of Google AI will empower its security technology to identify and understand threats more quickly and accurately.

Unannounced Google Assistant headphones show up at Best Buy

After bringing the Google Assistant to third-party speakers, Google has been slowly gearing up to bring the Assistant to another sound-producing device: headphones. While, officially, Google hasn’t made a peep about the project, inside the Google App there have been references to a new “Bisto” device type: a pair of headphones with the Google Assistant built in. Partners apparently aren’t waiting for Google’s announcement, as one of the first Google Assistant headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, is already showing up at Best Buy.

The functionality of “Google Assistant headphones” seems to be about what you would expect: the same Google Assistant commands you get on Google Home or on a phone but strapped to your head. Users can issue commands, ask questions, send text messages by voice, make phone calls, and access third-party voice apps via the headphones.

Headphones have a unique feature that revolves around notifications, with an option in the Google App that “Allows spoken notifications on your headphones.” The code for this is already shipping today in the Google Search app, and Android Police has a big teardown revealing what the app is planning to do. According to descriptions in the Google app, the headphones will “chime” when a notification comes in, and the users will be able to press a special “Google Assistant button” on the headphones to have the notification read to them.

Replying to these notifications will apparently be easier than on other devices, since another button can be held to issue a reply to the last read notification. No one has ever tried this because it’s not out yet, but it seems like an extensive system based on what’s in the Google app. It’s not just the Android app; special Google Assistant headphone pairing has shown up in the iOS Google app, too.

The QuietComfort 35 II is an update to Bose’s flagship noise-cancelling headphones and will be one of the first headphones to integrate the Google Assistant. 9to5Google reports that these are currently in Best Buy’s system, are set to ship September 22, and, like the original QC35s, will cost $350.

Google’s next big event is October 4, where we’re definitely expecting to see the launch of the Pixel 2, and, like last year, the event could also show off a host of other Google projects. Possible other devices are a new Chromebook Pixel, a mini Google Home, and a pair of Google-branded headphones. Neither of the Pixel 2 models has a headphone jack, so a pair of special Google-branded, Google Assistant Bluetooth headphones sounds like a likely accessory.

I have so many questions. Why do headphones need the Google Assistant “built in?” Unless you’re hooking them up to an iPod, a smartphone has all the “smarts” needed to do this—Google Assistant functionality seems like something you could just build into an app that works with any pair of headphones equipped with a microphone. In fact, some of the smarts here are built into an app: the Google Search app used for the settings. Also, people usually wear headphones in a public place where you want audio to be private and quiet. Does anyone imagine themselves shouting commands at the Google Assistant in a library or on the subway?

Listing image by TheNorwegian

Google Home now lowers the volume of casting audio when using Google Assistant

If you’ve ever tried to ask your Google Home a question when it’s casting audio to a TV or speaker, you’re probably aware that it can have trouble understanding you when the audio is too loud. I’ve run into this countless times, so I’m happy to report that Google is now working to make this a much more seamless operation.

Now, when your Google Home is casting videos or music to a TV or speaker, the Assistant will automatically lower the volume so it can better understand what you’re saying. For instance, if you’re casting a YouTube video to your television from your Google Home and want to ask it a question (such as “turn the volume down”), your TV will lower when you say “Ok Google” and stay at that level until you’re done talking to the Assistant. This feature should now be enabled by default.

Related: How to sign up for the Google Home Preview Program

I’ve been able to make this work on my Google Home running on preview firmware version 97091, though it sounds like some users don’t have access to the feature yet. If you’d like to see if it’s live for you, navigate to the devices section in your Google Home app, and you should see an option called Lower volume when listening.

However, this feature won’t work in all cases. Here are the list of exceptions for when Google Home won’t lower the volume:

  • If you’re casting music on a group of Cast devices.
  • If you started casting content on a TV or speaker using a mobile phone and not your voice.
  • When casting content on an Android TV devices with fixed volume (e.g. Nexus Player)
  • When casting content on a Chromecast built-in speaker or TV, or Android TV running Chromecast firmware version older than 1.25. Here’s how to check your firmware version.
  • For TV shows and movies when playback is done at 5.1 surround sound.

This should make talking to your Assistant much easier. Are you seeing this feature yet? Let us know in the comments below.

Google Home will soon lower volume of videos and music you’re casting to devices when you’re using Assistant

Google Assistant is the main selling point behind the Google Home, but Assistant can’t really help you if there’s audio blasting in the background and it can’t hear you. To alleviate this, Google Home will now automatically lower the volume of any music or video playing on speakers or TVs that it’s casting to when a user is speaking to Assistant.

The idea is simple – to make it easier for Assistant to hear you when you speak to it and for you to more easily hear Assistant when it replies back, Home will now automatically lower volume from casted devices when Assistant is activated. However, it won’t work when the following conditions are true:

  • If you’re casting music on a group of Cast devices. 
  • If you started casting content on a TV or speaker using a mobile phone and not your voice.
  • When casting content on an Android TV devices with fixed volume (e.g. Nexus Player)
  • When casting content on a Chromecast built-in speaker or TV, or Android TV running Chromecast firmware version older than 1.25. Here’s how to check your firmware version.
  • For TV shows and movies when playback is done at 5.1 surround sound.

Google’s support page says that this feature is live now, but of Artem’s four – yes, four – Homes (one of which is on preview firmware), none of them have this capability yet. But if you do and would like to turn this functionality off for whatever reason, you can do so by following these steps:

  • Make sure your mobile device or tablet is connected to the same Wi-Fi as your Google Home device.
  • Open the Google Home app.
  • In the top right corner of the Home screen, tap Devices to see available Google Home devices.
  • Scroll to find the device card for the Google Home you’d like to adjust.
  • In the top right corner of the device card, tap the device card menu Settings.
  • Under “Lower volume when listening”, tap the checkbox or slide the slider off.

Let us know if you guys are seeing this feature in the comments below.

Google Assistant is gaining mysterious new smart home control features, software update inbound

The Google Assistant has seen a host of new features and capabilities added since launch, and as demoed at Google Developer Days earlier this week, there are a lot more new goodies to look forward to in the near future. Along with the announced upgrades, Google is also alerting users to prepare for new Assistant features regarding its integration with smart home devices.

Sigma 18-35mm Lens

Last night, I received an email from Google letting me know that a software update was rolling out that would introduce new features for smart home gadgets connected to the Google Assistant/Google Home. Google says that a notification will be sent out via the Assistant and Home when the software update is ready, and part of the email reads as follows:

This upgrade will allow you to try new features and integrations that will be coming in the near future. In order to enjoy these features and keep all of tour devices synced with your Assistant, please complete the instructions below.

From here, Google walks you through a pretty clunky process for checking whether or not you’ve got updates waiting for your smart home devices.

You’ll need to first open the Google Home app on your phone, open up the menu, go to the Home Control tab, and tap on the “+” symbol. When you do this, you’ll see a list of all the smart services that are currently connected and what ones are available that you aren’t using.

If you see an “Upgrade!” message next to any of your services, tapping it will ask you to unlink said service and then relink it to your account.

As you might expect, doing this will require you to reconnect all of the smart home gadgets connected to that service and rename/re-add them to any rooms that you have set up with the Google Home app.

It’s a pain in the butt for sure, but unfortunately, there’s no way to get around it. For example, if there’s an update for the Philips Hue service and you ask Google to turn on the lights, you’ll get a message back saying that you need to check the Google Home app to upgrade that service.

I currently have an update for WeMo, but nothing for Philips Hue (the only two services I’ve got connected to Google Home/Assistant). Google hasn’t exactly said what specific features will come as a result of these new updates, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see if they’re worth the hassle of disconnecting and relinking everything.


Check out 9to5Google on YouTube for more news:

Home Depot To Support Google Assistant

Google has added a new partner to its Google Home voice ordering portfolio. Home Depot announced Thursday (Sept. 7) it is the newest retailer to team up with Google as it looks to expand its digital sales horizon.

Home Depot has confirmed it will now begin selling products on Google Home devices as well as via the Google Express commerce portal online and on mobile. Retailers Walmart, Target and Costco have all recently made similar announcements.

“We’re focused on delivering convenience and value as we continue to invest in best-in-class interconnected experiences for our customers,” said Home Depot online president and chief marketing officer Kevin Hofmann in a statement on the company’s website. “Google has been a key strategic partner for us over many years, and we’re excited to take our relationship to the next level with the Google Assistant and Google Express.”

Voice-controlled ordering is shaping up to be an important retail battleground, especially as the services are expected to grow sharply in terms of consumer use over the next several years. Market research company eMarketer estimates 35.6 million Americans will use internet-connected devices to carry out a voice-directed task at least once a month this year, a figure that has more than doubled since this time last year.

Currently, Amazon and its Alexa-powered Echo device are far and away the pack leader in this emerging area, with 70.6 percent of voice shopping customers using Amazon Echo devices to complete their orders.

At present, Google Home owns about 24 percent of the voice-activated market and is working hard to close the gap. That has meant triaging a $10 per month membership fee to attract more users to the platform and, of course, adding on big name partners like Home Depot, among other things.

But, Amazon also continues to ramp up its efforts. As the Home Depot news was breaking from Google, Amazon announced a new partnership with Kohl’s that will see Amazon goods gaining floor space in Kohl’s brick-and-mortar retail stores. Best Buy is also using its stores to display Amazon and Google products.


Google set to dominate Apple, Amazon and Samsung in the race for the best voice assistant

The concept of virtual assistance has been in consumers’ mind for more than half a century, first introduced through Sci-Fi movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) featuring virtual assistant HAL and infamous quote “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Portrayed as a must-have feature by the consumer tech industry, our research at Ovum shows that digital assistants, in fact, fall short of consumer expectations and can’t do what they want. A survey conducted by Ovum in the UK and the US in May 2017 revealed that more than 50 percent of consumers don’t find digital assistants useful (see Figure 1).

Credit: Ovum Digital Consumer Insights 2017: Smart Living

Nevertheless, over a third of consumers in the US and the UK use digital assistants weekly — this is equivalent to Netflix’s adoption level. And this is set to grow even further: globally, Ovum forecasts the native digital assistant installed base to grow from 3.6 billion in 2016 to 7.5 billion active devices by 2021, including smartphones, tablets, wearables, smart home devices, VR headsets, TV sets, set-top boxes and media streamers (see Figure 2).

The digital assistant population will equal today’s human population in 2021. But fear not — HAL doesn’t feature among the leading digital assistants. Instead, Google Assistant will dominate the native (i.e. preloaded on the device) digital assistant device market with 23.3 percent market share, followed by Samsung’s Bixby (14.5 percent), Apple’s Siri (13.1 percent), Amazon’s Alexa (3.9 percent), and Microsoft’s Cortana (2.3percent). So what’s in it for those companies and what can we expect from them?

Credit: Ovum

Google needs to monetize voice search

For Google it’s all about preserving its dominant position in search. Google monetizes search through display advertising which doesn’t exist in a pure voice-based user interface (i.e. no display). Google would go out of business tomorrow if everyone suddenly decides to shift their searches via smart speakers using voice-based queries.

Linking Google Assistant to core Google services such as Maps, Calendar and Gmail is what could save Google from self-cannibalization. However, the transition from Google Now to Google Assistant will be slow due to many people using older versions of Android. Google’s own branded device push with Pixel and Home along with key partnerships with premium smartphone vendors like Samsung and LG will help grow Google Assistant install base to nearly 1.8 billion devices in 2021.

Siri to make iPhone great again

Apple pioneered the voice assistant market with the launch of Siri back in October 2011. Five years down the line, Siri has become the most widely adopted digital “conversational” assistant (read: excluding Google Now) in the world with an installed base of 800 million devices, but only 375 million of those use Siri monthly.

Siri’s integration in core native apps such as iMessage and Photos in iOS 11, to be released in the fall, will bring that engagement rate to 100 percent. Siri’s expansion will be confined to the Apple ecosystem, which we at Ovum do not believe will grow significantly over the next five years, unless Apple decides to sacrifice some of its margins and develop devices in lower tiers — which is highly unlikely.

Amazon’s Alexa lacks scale

For many consumers, particularly in the US, Amazon was the pioneer of digital assistance with Alexa. Unlike Siri or Google Now, Alexa aims to be more human and to play a central role in the home, rather than on the move. More importantly, Alexa enjoys a much wider demographics spread than its competitors with high level of engagement from kids and seniors. This strategy has successfully driven Amazon’s online sales and the adoption of other devices such as Kindle and Amazon Fire TV.

The pace of innovation set by Amazon is staggering with new devices and partners appearing monthly, but Alexa has its limitations: it has very little presence on handsets (versus Siri and Google Assistant) and currently only speaks English and German.

Latest additions such as the Echo Wand, i.e. Alexa-enabled barcode stick, or the Echo Show, i.e. Echo with a screen, are very simple in nature but will have great potential to augment the use of digital assistants in an ecommerce context, something that neither Apple, Google or Microsoft offer at the moment.

Samsung’s Bixby is playing catch up

Samsung launched a digital assistant called S-Voice back in May 2012 to compete with Apple’s Siri. However, S-Voice has always worked in the shadow of Google Now and was never a top priority for Samsung. Bixby has three key components: Bixby Home, Bixby Vision and Bixby Voice.

Bixby Home is, simply put, a personalized home screen, Bixby Vision is an image recognition tool for the camera and Bixby Voice is a voice-based digital assistant. Similarly to Apple with Siri, Samsung is using Bixby Voice to differentiate its smartphones. But Samsung has a lot of ground to catch-up. It will launch a Bixby SDK later this year to spur third party development and grow an ecosystem of services and apps that are compatible with Bixby.

Samsung’s track record at developing consumer-facing software and creating developer buzz is not great but Bixby’s small focused initial roadmap is positive. Unlike Apple, Samsung has plenty of other growing lines of business besides its premium Galaxy smartphones. If digital assistants become widely adopted beyond smartphones, Samsung will be the first to see the benefits, especially on the components side.

Convenience is key to the success of digital assistants — it needs to help you complete a task that previously would have taken a lot more time. However, it doesn’t seem to be the case when consumers rate the digital assistant features they value the most. Currently, the most useful applications are fairly simple: telling the weather, navigation and setting a timer.

2018 will see the emergence of a new generation of digital assistants offering a more personal experience and the ability to see as well as hear, getting a step closer to the sci-fi scenarios everyone has been dreaming of, or, having nightmares about.

Third-party Google Assistant speakers put “OK Google” in tons of form factors

IFA (the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin) is happening in Germany right now, and the show is apparently the coming out party for third-party speakers with an integrated Google Assistant. Imagine a Google Home, but made by somebody else, without the all-white, air freshener design. The companies are in various stages of rolling out information, ship dates, and pricing, but we have a few details and lots of pretty pictures.

Let’s meet our contestants:

  • Onkyo Smart Speaker G3: This one looks like a bookshelf speaker if it were entirely rendered in a plastic mesh. Onkyo’s site has lots of flowery speaker jargon about how powerful it is, but there’s no wattage rating, price, or any actual concrete information. It looks neat, though.
  • Panasonic GA10: A tall, skinny rectangle with directional sound. Panasonic doesn’t have any specs or pricing, but it will be available in 2018.
  • Sony LF-S50G: Ooh boy. Sony’s entry looks just like an Apple Homepod. It’s $199, has 360-degree sound and a clock display, and somehow manages to have both a “splashproof” IPX3 rating and not be portable. Don’t get your plugged-in electronics wet. This comes out in October.
  • Anker Zolo Mojo: A $70, 5-watt speaker with two microphones. Either this got announced accidentally, or Anker’s site is broken right now. This link should work eventually.
  • JBL Link 10, Link 20, and Link 300: JBL takes a “family” approach to the Google Assistant speaker with “small,” “medium,” and “large” offerings. The Link 10 and 20 are portable with five and 10 hours of battery life, respectively, with an IPx7 “waterproof” design. The Link 300 is a plugged-in, non-waterproof affair. From small to large, prices are €169 ($200), €199 ($236), and €299 ($355). Harman owns the JBL brand, and Samsung bought Harman for $8 billion last year, so Samsung is producing a Google Assistant speaker before it produces a Bixby speaker.
  • Mobvoi TicHome Mini: Another portable offering. This one comes in five colors: black, white, blue, red, and tan. It has a “6-hour” battery life and an IPX6 “splashproof” water-resistance rating. There’s no price yet.

Since these are all basically third-party Google Homes, they should have identical functionality, so besides asking and answering questions with the “Ok Google” hotword, they’re all Google Cast receivers and smart home control devices, and they support multiple accounts with the ability to distinguish users by voice. Google says users should expect the Google Assistant to be “just about the same across speakers,” so we’re going to assume that means they can also make phone calls and will eventually, someday, support reminders. Google’s blog post also has a word about availability, generally pegging everything for “later this year” (which is not true of Panasonic’s offering) and saying that “most will be available in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, and France.”

Google launched the Google Assistant SDK in April, which let hardware hackers build the Google Assistant into just about anything. This week’s speaker announcements are clearly the commercial side of that release. These third-party speakers won’t have the spotlight for too long, though, since we’ve heard Google has a new Google Home of its own planned. The new device will supposedly be smaller and cheaper—basically Google’s version of an Amazon Echo Dot.

Listing image by Sony

What has Samsung done with Viv, voice assistant more advanced than its Bixby?

Samsung recently showed off its voice assistant Bixby, with cool features including image recognition. In a demo at the Note 8 launch event last month, a Samsung employee showed how he could ask Bixby to move a picture of pizza into his “food” folder.

That’s a pretty smart assistant, but whatever happened to its much talked-about Viv voice assistant? In 2016 the company bought Viv, which was pitched as a revolutionary “global brain” that would be able to place your pizza orders, manage your schedule and make dinner reservations without ever having to speak to a person. (It also happens to be made by the same people who created Siri.)

The move was hailed by industry insiders, who said Viv had shown off technology in demos that seemed very promising.

Tim Baxter, Samsung’s president and chief executive in North America, said the company had been working on Bixby before it acquired Viv. He also said Viv brings different things to the table – and helps Samsung with its bigger ambitions for moving into the smart home and beyond.

So Bixby, it seems, is just the start for voice-controlled Samsung products. Viv specialises in work with services, such as social media, entertainment and others that are made by third parties, Baxter said.

It’s a big ambition, and one that Samsung is arguably a little late in pursuing openly. Amazon and Google are currently the dominant players in the home assistant world, with Amazon scooping up 70 per cent of the voice-enabled speaker market, according to eMarketer. The retail giant is expected to keep command of that market for a while, thanks to its expanding line of Echo devices.

Samsung’s new personal digital assistant Bixby faces a few tough challenges

So far, 35.6 million Americans use a voice assistant at least once a month – a market that’s expected to grow substantially in the next few years.

Gartner, another analysis firm, has projected that a quarter of all household requests will be made through voice assistants by 2019.

One advantage Samsung may have over its competitors with its home strategy is its wide portfolio of products. It has the “widest assortment of connected products from any company in the world,” Baxter said. That assertion is hard to test, but with everything from smart televisions to smart washing machines and the broad ranging SmartThings line, Samsung has a plausible claim to that title.

Samsung’s strategy could address a problem that home assistants face now: they only work with certain brands of hardware. Figuring out whether your light bulb can talk to the same assistant you need for your fridge is a pain many people don’t want to research.

Still, a broad base of gadgetry will only take Samsung so far, said Julie Ask, analyst at Gartner. Companies such as Google, Amazon and Apple – which is launching a smart speaker, the HomePod, later this year – have lots of data and established services. That, she said, is a different and arguably more compelling approach than Samsung’s.

“One’s an interface and one is my porthole to an entire ecosystem of services,” Ask said.

Baxter said that Samsung is aware that it has a way to go but didn’t say when Viv would make its first consumer appearance – just that there’s more to come.

“We think these flagship devices that will be in the market this autumn are real, strong proof of how we’re building the bridge to this connected world,” Baxter said.

The Google Assistant spreads to five new speakers at IFA

The TicHome Mini


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Google Home is making friends in Germany. 

At IFA, the consumer electronics show in Berlin, Google’s announcing five new speakers with its Google Assistant built in. The Zolo Mojo by Anker, the TicHome Mini by MobVoi, the GA10 by Panasonic, the Sony LF-S50G, and the JBL Link will all supposedly work just like a Google Home — they’ll respond to voice commands and act as your personal assistant and smart home controller.

Google recently opened its Assistant to developers with the hope that third parties would build it into new devices. Until now, we haven’t seen or heard much progress from those outside developers — though I did get to try a cocktail made by Google Assistant at the company’s developer conference in May. The new speakers announced at IFA are the first sign that new consumer-ready devices with the Assistant built-in are indeed on the way.

Details are scarce on a couple of the options, but you can read more about Panasonic’s effort here and here are our impressions of the Sony LF-S50G. All of the speakers are due out by the end of the year. Given how similar they seem to Google Home — a smart speaker that responds to your voice commands — the announcement doesn’t seem to do much to help Google catch up to Amazon in device versatility. Amazon’s assistant Alexa is built into quite a few devices at this point, such as a fridge, a lamp and a fashion-savvy camera. Alexa’s also in a speaker made by Anker.

Google also touted its integration with LG in its announcement Wednesday morning. Soon, you’ll be able to control LG washers, dryers and vacuums with a voice command. LG and Google first announced this integration back in May. Still, it’ll be cool to control appliances with your voice, and we’re finding more and more Google enabled products as we explore Europe’s biggest tech show.