Google Home gets voice calling and the ability to put responses on your TV

Google Home has finally had Bluetooth audio enabled for good

google home calling notifications uk
As expected, a lot of upcoming upgrades for Google Home were announced at Google I/O in May. The device, embedded with Google Assistant, was announced at last year’s I/O, and it’s come a long way since then.

Since its launch, it’s acquired 50 new features, such as Google Shopping and step-by-step cooking. It recently started differentiating between users’ voices, a feature that will come in handy with its new hands-free calling ability. And soon, if you ask Google Home to “Call Mom,” it should connect you to the lady you grew up with instead of your mother-in-law. Unlike the case with Amazon Alexa’s calling feature — which doesn’t support third-party devices or ordinary phone numbers, just Amazon devices — you can call any phone number in the U.S. or Canada for free, just by asking your device.

Google Home is also getting some limited notifications, called Proactive Assistance. Rishi Chandra, vice president of product management for Google Home, said it’s starting small, with really important alerts, e.g., if the traffic’s bad and you have a meeting to get to or your flight’s delayed. Users won’t hear the device interrupt — instead, it will light up to let you know something’s happening. Sound alerts may come later, and hopefully you’ll be able to sync it with your smart lights to have them blink when you have an important alert.

In terms of entertainment, Google Home now works with free Spotify accounts. It’s also getting some deeper integration with Chromecast, and will work with HBO Now, CBS, CW, HGTV, Food Network, and more channels. You can also ask Google Home what’s on your DVR. “Everything can be done in a hands-free way right from the comfort of my couch,” Chandra said.

Three months after initially announcing that the smart speaker would be able to stream Bluetooth audio from iOS and Android devices, Google has finally turned this functionality on (for good). Sure, the Google Home has always boasted a Bluetooth chip, but alas, that connectivity wasn’t an option for audio streaming until now. Initially announced at Google I/O, this Bluetooth function was briefly and accidentally turned on in June. But now, it’s working for real for most folks. Those who are reporting the new capability have firmware version 93937, and is shouldn’t matter whether or not you’re in the Preview Program.

Since the smart speaker is screenless, it’s going to take advantage of your phone, tablet, or TV (via Chromecast) to show you visual information. If you want to get directions, it can send them to your phone, even if it’s an iPhone. It will take you “straight to Google Maps,” according to Chandra. Want a better look at your calendar? It can pull it up on your TV.

Google Home is also “invading” more countries, and will be coming to Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan this summer.

Update: Google Home is now able to stream Bluetooth audio from iOS and Android devices. 

Smart Home

The Instant Pot Lux is a gateway drug into the pleasures of pressure cooking

The 3-quart Instant Pot Lux is one of the most affordable Instant Pots you can buy. Is it still a solid pressure cooker? Here are our thoughts on the Instant Pot Lux, a great IP baseline model.
Smart Home

You can play NPR’s ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’ on your smart speaker

You can play "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" on Amazon Echo speakers or Google Home devices with the new Wait Wait Quiz. It's hosted by Peter Sagal and Bill Kurtis and will be updated every week with new questions.
Computing

Cortana wants to be friends with Alexa and Google Assistant

Microsoft no longer wants to compete against Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant in the digital assistant space. Instead, it wants to transform Cortana into a skill that can be integrated into other digital assistants.
Smart Home

Project Alias is a ‘smart parasite’ that stops smart speakers from listening

Two designers chose to do something about nosy smart speakers. The result is Project Alias, a "smart parasite" that whispers nonsense to Google Home and Alexa until it hears a specific wake word.
Product Review

Kwikset Kevo Contemporary review

Tired of carrying around keys? Make keyless entry so easy that all you have to do is have your phone nearby to open the door. It’s a little pricey, but sleek lines and simple features make the Kwikset Kevo Contemporary a great choice for…
Smart Home

With focus on interoperability, is Nevo Butler a smarter home hub?

Universal Electronics is the latest company getting into the smart home market, announcing at CES 2019 that it intends to market the Nevo Butler, a new smart home hub with onboard A.I. and voice control technology.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Smart Home

The best air fryers deliver fried food with a fraction of the calories

What is this magical mechanism? It's an air fryer, and when used correctly, it can mimic the effects of frying while using just a little bit of oil. You still get that crispy, golden exterior and the fluffy center.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Smart Home

Legrand’s Smart Lighting touts security, interoperability, and simple setup

Near universal connectivity including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, Nest, Ring, and the Internet of Things is the theme of Legrand's Smart Lighting Radiant collection of switches, dimmers, outlets, and plugs.
Smart Home

Abode Systems upgrades its smart home gateway with new chip and Z-Wave Plus

Palo Alto-based Abode Systems is adding an upgrade to its popular smart home starter kit by replacing its central gateway with a second-generation version that supports cellular backup and enhanced Z-Wave support.
Smart Home

Put away that sponge and let us help you pick the best dishwasher for your buck

Tired of doing dishes by hand? Take a look at our picks of the four best dishwashers currently available and let a machine do the dirty work for you. They’ll do a much better job, anyway.
Smart Home

Walabot Home, a device aimed at keeping seniors safe, expands its capabilities

When you have to be away from your elderly family members, Walabot Home can serve as your surrogate. This device can detect when your loved one falls and will call for help — no wearables or user input required.