Google Assistant Can Now Move Your Music Between Rooms, But Not to Phones
Google Assistant will transfer music and videos from one device to another upon request thanks to the new stream transfer feature added by Google this week. Media playback can follow a Google device user around their home, encouraging potential customers to invest in the Google ecosystem of devices.
If a Google Home speaker is playing music or a video, all it takes is a request to Google Assistant to switch to a different speaker or display. Google could move music playing from a living room speaker to a bedroom speaker, or from the den to the kitchen. Any Google streaming app can take advantage of the feature, as well as Spotify, Pandora, and Google-owned YouTube. Users can also transfer the streaming media using a smartphone app, but the feature seems largely designed as a fast way to shift playback by voice.
The new feature works for devices including the Google Home Hub, Nest Hub Max, and Chromecast streaming television dongles. There’s a glaring omission on the list, however, mobile devices. The limitation is likely a matter of the Android operating system not matching precisely with the Google Nest, formerly Google Home, system. When you are listening to music on a Pixel or Galaxy phone while on a walk and want to keep it going upon your return home, you’ll have to separately start playing the songs on a home device.
Making a Google Home
The appeal of making music and video follow you around the home is easy to discern. For consumers, being able to treat all the different smart speakers and displays as appendages of one larger system is more efficient than having every device operating in isolation. For Google, the feature encourages customers to fill their homes with Google devices and operate within the company’s tech ecosystem.
Not being able to involve a mobile device is a pretty severe limitation. Apple is already partly ahead of Google on that score, having recently added a handoff feature that transfers audio between HomePods and iPhones when they get close together, albeit without a voice command option. Google hasn’t ignored the mobile device to home system voice assistant space entirely. A short but growing list of Android phones can now turn into limited smart displays via the new Ambient Mode feature when plugged in and charging. Ambient Mode sets Google Assistant to listening for its wake word without needing to unlock the phone and users can control any connected smart home devices as though they had a Google smart display.
Google clearly wants to make it easier for people to build Google Assistant-powered smart homes. Leaks from Google have revealed that the upcoming Nest WiFi router will integrate Google Assistant, tossing the voice assistant in as a bonus to people buying the router. Nest WiFi will supposedly include beacons built with microphones and speakers connected to a central router, a kind of smart home starter kit that brings Google Assistant into multiple locations in a home and enables voice control over internet access. Google Assistant’s effort to become the default smart home voice assistant could make it tough for rivals like Amazon and Apple to grab bigger market shares.