Google is determined to crush Amazon's Alexa in 2018

Technology Editor
Yahoo Finance
Google is bringing its Assistant to smart screens like the Lenovo Smart Display beginning this summer.
Google is bringing its Assistant to smart screens like the Lenovo Smart Display beginning this summer.

CES 2018 was bound to have plenty of news about smart assistants like Amazon’s (AMZN) Alexa making their way into a seemingly endless array of gadgets. But Google (GOOG, GOOGL) just blew up any notion that Amazon would dominate the show by announcing that it’s bringing Google Assistant to everything from a slew of new speakers, to smart displays, headphones and even your car.

The move is yet another direct shot by the search giant at Amazon, and is sure to further heat up the race between these two tech titans to make their AI assistants a major part of consumers’ digital lives.

Smart displays

Google’s first big move is the introduction of smart displays powered by Assistant. Think Amazon’s Echo Show or Echo Spot, but running on Google Assistant. Unlike Google’s Home or Home Mini, though, the tech giant isn’t rolling out its own first-party smart display. Instead, it’s teaming up with companies like JBL, Lenovo, LG and Sony (SNE). Amazon, produces its own hardware for its Echo Show and Spot.

The Lenovo Smart Display — pretty direct name — is certainly more attractive than Amazon’s Echo Show, which has been criticized for its bland, blocky style. Lenovo will be offering an 8-inch Smart Display with a soft grey back for $199 and a 10-inch version with a bamboo back for $249. The Echo Show has a seven-inch screen and costs $229.

Google Assistant-powered smart display devices can be used in vertical and horizontal modes.
Google Assistant-powered smart display devices can be used in vertical and horizontal modes.

Naturally, Google makes it a point to explain that Assistant-powered smart displays will run YouTube, which the company pulled from Amazon’s Echo Show and Fire TV in retaliation for Amazon’s decision to not carry Google products on its shopping site. In December, Amazon resumed carrying Google’s Chromecast after a two-year absence.

Google Assistant-powered smart displays will let you do everything from check your schedule, to get directions, which you can then send directly to your smartphone. You’ll also be able to check the weather, look up things like cooking directions and more.

Assistant in the car

Beyond smart displays, Google says it’s also bringing Assistant to cars via Android Auto. The service will let you do things like pull up your Spotify playlists, navigate using Waze and, in the future, order Starbucks and reserve parking spots.

At first, you’ll need to pair your smartphone with your car to use the feature, but Google says it’s working with vehicle manufacturers to integrate Assistant directly into their vehicles’ infotainment systems.

Google Assistant is also coming to Android Auto this year.
Google Assistant is also coming to Android Auto this year.

Answers to questions you ask Assistant will differ from the current voice commands in Android Auto by being tailored to your existing Google preferences, rather than basic search responses.

It’s worth noting that Amazon’s Alexa works in vehicles, as well, and can let you do everything from remotely starting your car to adding items to your shopping list.

More speakers and headphones

Google also announced that it is bringing Assistant to a variety of new smart speakers from companies including Altec Lansing, Bang & Olufsen, iHome, JBL and Klipsch. Google says Assistant will land in a number of headphones manufactured by Jaybird, JBL, LG and Sony in the coming months.

According to Google, the headphones will offer the ability to tap one earbud to activate Assistant, similar to Apple AirPods,  and control the music you’re listening to, get notifications and hear and respond to messages.

From all of these announcements, it’s clear Google didn’t come to CES to play around. The company is set on putting its stamp on the digital assistant market and overthrowing Amazon’s Alexa as the top dog. But with so many Alexa-powered devices on the market, Google still has quite a bit of work to do.

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Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

 

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