Google announced a few big updates for the Google Home today. None of them are game-changing on their own, but they all add up to a substantial update for the connected speaker. Details are pretty basic right now, and Google didn’t say when any of these features would arrive, but here’s the gist of what’s coming up for the Home.
Google calls this feature “proactive assistance.” Essentially, Google Home will do its best to alert owners to things they need to know, like reminders, traffic alerts, or flight delays.
At launch, these are going to be really basic — it sounds like the Home won’t support notifications for much more than that. The limitation may be to prevent people from getting overloaded right away and give up on notifications altogether.
Google is keeping notifications pretty subtle, too. The Home’s light ring will begin spinning around, without making a sound, when there’s an alert. Owners will just have to say, “OK Google, what’s up?” to hear what it has for them.
Free calling to phones in US and Canada
Amazon just introduced calling through the Echo — but that was only to other Echo devices. Google is one-upping Amazon by letting the Home dial out to actual landline and mobile phones. Whenever this feature rolls out, you’ll be able to ask the Home to call anyone on your contacts list, and it’ll dial out to them on a private number.
Because Home does voice recognition, it’ll be able to figure out which person’s contact list to use when looking up who to call.
Unfortunately, it sounds like this feature is only coming to the US and Canada for now, so everyone else will have to wait on this one.
Calendar and reminders
You can finally set reminders and calendar entries. Finally.
More streaming services
Google Home has already been able to control a handful of music and video services, but it’s about to get a bunch of major missing names. For music, that includes Spotify’s free tier, Deezer, and SoundCloud. For video, it includes HBO Now and Hulu. On top of that, Home is also getting the ability to stream anything over Bluetooth.
Altogether, these new integrations should make the speaker much more useful as a central media controller. While it can already do select services, you can’t really rely on the Home right now if you use a variety of streaming apps. Increasingly, it looks like you’ll just be able to ask the Home to do something and know it’ll work.
A TV interface
Sometimes you actually want to see what’s going on, so Google’s making a TV interface for the Google Home. You’ll soon be able to ask the Home to send information to your TV, from basics like the weather and your calendar, to information it’s looking up like nearby restaurants or YouTube videos you might want to watch.
Google also says that "over time” it’s going to bring the Assistant integrations that third parties build to the TV.
The Home is going to expand to five new countries this summer: Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan.