Google (GOOG) Home’s built-in assistant is now capable of distinguishing up to six different individual voices, marking a critical breakthrough in its technology and an important edge over rival Amazon (AMZN).
The update, which was released on Thursday, enables users of the California-based company’s voice-activated assistant to be presented with personalized information from their calendars, services and preferences after the device is trained to recognize their voice and saluted in the customary fashion. Once users say “OK Google” or “Hey Google”, Home will, for example, be able to remind them of their daily commitments, play a favorite song and even give updates on local traffic.
Home’s built-in internet-connected assistant can provide this type of information to six unique voices, provided that they do not speak at the same time. That marks a big development from the previous version, which responded to commands from different people with the same preferences set out by the default user.
Making up Lost Ground
Google hopes its latest update can help it to better compete with Amazon's Echo, its biggest rival in the voice assistant market. The electronic commerce and cloud computing company sold 8.2 million of its Echo devices from its launch date in 2014 to the new year, according to research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP). In contrast, analytics firm VoiceLabs claims that Google Home sold between 400,000 and 500,000 units since it was unveiled in November 2016. (See also: Amazon Has Sold 8.2 Million Echo Speakers So Far.)
Echo’s voice-activated assistant Alexa is currently unable to recognize different voices, presenting Google with a distinct advantage and an opportunity to finally catch up with Amazon. Home was criticized by some reviewers when it was launched for offering limited integration with other devices. (See also: How Does Google Home Compare With Amazon's Alexa?)
Google Home has also been criticized in the past for being easily manipulated. Users of the device are unable to block others from accessing it — earlier this year Google’s Super Bowl advertisement set off devices across the country. Amazon’s Echo has encountered similar problems. Fox News (FOX) reported In January that a television news story about an accidental dollhouse purchase through Alexa prompted Echo devices in homes of viewers watching the report to order a dollhouse. (See also: Dumb Home: Burger King Pwned Google Home.)