Muttering “OK Google” may soon become useful all around your house, as Google reportedly preps an Amazon Echo rival dubbed “Chirp” that will extend the company’s voice and search capabilities into the home.
Following up on earlier rumors about a Google-powered Echo clone, Recode claims that Google will showcase voice search and intelligent assistant capabilities at its I/O conference next week, with Chirp itself expected to debut later this year.
The surprising part isn’t that Google may be creating an Echo rival but rather that it’s taken so long to do so. Google has big smart home ambitions, the power of Google Now and search, top-notch voice recognition technology, and even an appropriate form factor with the OnHub router (pictured above)—which Recode says Chirp’s design will mimic. Google also owns Nest and its line of smart home products. Toss in the company’s insatiable thirst for user data and a smart speaker for the home seems almost inevitable.
Google’s 2016 Founder’s Letter, penned by CEO Sundar Pichai, seemed to hint at plans for an Echo-like device, as well:
“Looking to the future, the next big step will be for the very concept of the “device” to fade away. Over time, the computer itself—whatever its form factor—will be an intelligent assistant helping you through your day. We will move from mobile first to an AI first world.”
The story behind the story: While a Google-powered smart speaker would be unlikely to bring the physical shopping superpowers of Amazon’s Echo to bear, Chirp could prove even more helpful performing digital tasks. It could lean on Google’s arsenal of superb online services like Google Now, Play Music, Gmail, Calendar, and maybe even tap into a Chromecast or Android TV on the same Wi-Fi network. (The idea of saying “OK Google, play House of Cards” and having your next unwatched episode pop up on your TV is already making me giddy.)
On the other side of the coin, a device like Chirp would make Google services even “stickier” than they already are—and provide the company with all sorts of valuable user data that Amazon’s Echo is currently hogging for itself.