Anker Debuts Google Assistant-enabled Roav Bolt
Yesterday Anker announced the Roav Bolt: an in-car microphone with Google Assistant built-in that plugs into your car charger. Anker is the company behind the Roav Viva, a similar Alexa-enabled product that debuted last year. Both cost the same, $50, and come with two standard USB Type A ports for charging. The Roav Bolt also features an auxiliary port and Bluetooth 5.0. The charger plugs into the 12-volt car lighter port, allowing the device to be compatible with most old and new cars. Anker says the Bolt will begin shipping next month.
Google Assistant is Now Playing Catch Up to Alexa
This is not the only car in-car device with Google Assistant today. The Google Assistant-enabled JBL Link Drive was also announced yesterday at CES. A little bit more expensive at $60, the JBL Link Drive does not come with any USB ports. Users can, however, use the auxiliary port and Bluetooth on the Link Drive to connect to their car’s stereo system. Unlike the Roav Bolt and Viva, the Link Drive also has noise-canceling features that ignore ambient noise such as traffic or wind in order to listen to voice commands. It will actually turn down the volume of your car stereo when it hears a wake phrase, like “Ok Google.” This allows users to speak clearly without worrying about repeating themselves or talking loudly enough to be heard over ambient noise. The charger also plugs into the standard 12-volt car lighter port most cars have. The JBL Link Drive will be available this Spring.
Getting Assistants into Every Car
Devices like the Roav Bolt and JBL Link Drive are important bridge technologies for providing voice assistant access in cars that don’t have the latest integrated infotainment features. Enabling access to voice assistants in older cars, even those made just 2-3 years ago, often requires replacing the infotainment head unit. Few consumers are willing to go to that trouble and expense. Devices designed to bring an always listening microphone array designed for the car are an inexpensive and simple way to bring voice assistants into cars now. Amazon announced the Echo Auto in September do fulfill a similar role, but it is currently in a limited beta. Before long, car dashboards will include connectivity to these voice assistant services, but until then products like Roav Bolt and JBL Link Drive have a clear role to play.
Google Assistant Heading towards Everywhere Too
This year’s CES has had lots of Google Assistant news, a response to Amazon’s “Alexa everywhere” strategy of the past four years. A walk around CES results in a constant stream of Alexa and Google Assistant logos being sported by a wide variety of device makers. It seems voice integration is starting to become a standard expectation for the next generation of electronic devices and most brands are opting to support both Amazon and Google. So far this week, Google Assistant has been found in Lenovo’s Smart Clock, the KitchenAid Smart Display, Instant Pot’s Smart Pressure Cooker, Moen’s U showers, McAfee’s Secure Home Platform, and many more devices. Later this year we expect to see Assistant in the Sonos One and the Sonos Beam, TVs from Samsung, and more. After entering the market two years behind Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant has been playing catch up in terms of device support. Announcements this week show Google is rapidly closing the gap.