Google Home Offers Voice Web Developers New Terrain

Google HomeGoogle Home, Google’s answer to Amazon’s popular Echo device, is now on the market. I ordered one for the work I’m doing with my startup Hutch.ai and should have it any day now. Today there were very positive reviews of Google Home in both TechCrunch and Mashable. Both reviewers praise the device’s design and its ASR. But the thing that seems to be garnering the Home better reviews than the Echo is the Google Assistant.

Google Assistant has the advantage of being connected to Alphabet’s vast knowledge sources, including its Knowledge Graph that provides instant answers to seemingly everything. This quick access to information gives Google Assistant the appearance of being smarter than Alexa. Google has also programmed the Assistant so that it has better retention of conversational context. For example, you can ask Google Assistant a question about someone famous and then ask another question about that same person without referring to them again by name. The Assistant will infer that your second question is about the same celebrity.

So when will Google allow third parties to start creating skills for Google Home? According to a Techcrunch article from October, Google will open up their SDK to developers in December (so, next month). Google is using a different nomenclature for third party skills, referring to them as “actions.” The Techcrunch article notes that there will be two types of actions: direct and conversational. Direct actions will power home automation devices. Conversational actions are more interactive and sound like the types of Alexa skills that most independent developers have been creating for the Echo platform. To create conversational actions, developers will leverage Google’s newly acquired API.ai toolset.

Will developers who have been creating skills for Alexa start porting those over to the Google Home platform? It will be interesting to see if there’s the same rush to develop for Home as there was for the Echo. The fact that neither platform offers a clear path to skill / action monetization may be a deterrent for some developers, but that remains to be seen.

In my view, it’s gratifying to finally have another solid voice assistant entering people’s homes and increasing the reach and potential of the voice web. Our team at Hutch.ai has created two skills for the Alexa platform over the past year, both as experiments in what works and what doesn’t when it comes to providing listeners on the voice web with engaging content.  We’re in a bit of a transition right now, slightly re-shaping our thinking based on what we’ve learned. But we see Google Home as a great opportunity to expand the audience for voice web content.

Note: A very similar version to this article was previously posted on the Hutch.ai blog.

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