At the 2017 CES, the biggest technology conference of the year, it was all about Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant.
In 2018, Google is doing everything possible to hijack the news cycles to ensure Amazon does not dominate CES 2018.
Google usually doesn’t exhibit products at CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show), but this week is making a slew of new announcements about its own virtual helper, the Google Assistant. Google revealed that the Assistant is coming to a variety of new devices, including new voice-activated speakers, Android-powered TVs, headphones, and cars that support Android Auto.
The new Google Assistant-compatible speakers will be made by companies such as Bang & Olufsen, Altec Lansing, Anker Innovations, JBL, and iHome, among others. TV makers such as Hisense, Xiaomi, and Skyworth will be bringing Google’s voice-activated helper to their Android TVs. And new headphones from JBL, Sony, LG, and Jaybird will also have the capability to summon Google’s digital helper.
But Google is also taking a more direct shot at Amazon with the announcement of Smart Displays, a new type of device that will run on the Google Assistant. Smart Displays are a bit like Google’s Home smart speaker in that they’re voice-centric computers, but Smart Displays include interactive touchscreens similar to Amazon’s Echo Show, unlike the Google Home, which primarily relies on voice commands. Also unlike the Home, Smart Displays are made by Google’s hardware partners, rather than in-house — Lenovo, JBL, LG, and Sony are all involved. Smart Display’s are Google’s answer to Amazon’s Echo Show, which also includes a tablet-like touchscreen. The Smart Display runs on Android Things, Google’s platform for Internet of Things devices, rather than the standard version of Android.
The Lenovo Smart Display can be used for just about any task you might also do with the Google Home: playing music, controlling smart home devices, and pulling up recipes or restaurant recommendations . But since the Smart Display has a screen, the device will show users helpful information when answering their questions. When asking the Smart Display where to go for dinner, it will show nearby restaurant recommendations from Google Maps.
And Google’s Smart Displays can play YouTube videos. That gives it an edge over the Echo Show, considering Google pulled support for the YouTube app on Amazon’s touchscreen device last year. Lenovo and Google’s new device also has an advantage over Amazon when it comes to aesthetics being sleeker, a more polished design that blends more easily into the home.
The Smart Display also integrates with smart home devices, including those made by Nest, which is owned by Google’s parent company, meaning parents can use the Smart Display to view a live feed from a Nest security camera.
Most large technology companies, like Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon, reserve their product announcements for their own keynotes and events. This year, Google is determined to make CES attendees — and the world — forget about Alexa