Launch Night In FI

Google’s ‘Launch Night In’ Event Will Give Us a New Nest Smart Speaker and Pixel Phone, but Will There by New Features for Google Assistant?

Google has its annual fall hardware event later today. The obvious question is what’s in store for Google Assistant heading into the holiday season? One thing we know for sure since Google teased it months ago is that the Google Home smart speaker will finally get its replacement. Keep in mind that Google Home was introduced in October 2016 — yes four years ago — and is long overdue for an update. Amazon has rolled out three interactions of its Echo during the same period to offer some perspective. It’s not as if Google hasn’t introduced other new products during that period. We’ve seen Google Home Mini, Google Home Max, and two smart displays as well. But, Google Home was finally retired (and the final inventory sold out) earlier this year. (Read more about this smart speaker milestone from May: Google Home No More)

Nest Audio Smart Speaker and Other Voice Interactive Devices

The new Nest Audio has already been spotted in the wild when a Walmart inadvertently sold at least one device and images were shared on Reddit. It is a significant departure from the original Google Home design which many people likened to an air freshener shape. The new Nest Audio smart speaker instead looks a lot like a smaller version of Google Home Max, the company’s high-end device for audiophiles.

It has a rectangular shape and the Redditor that posted the images said that it was really designed to be used upright and does not work well on its side. This suggestion is reinforced when you learn from the manual that there are touch controls on the top for volume control and to play or pause the audio. This design clearly would not work as well if on the side.

I think it is also likely that we will see a new Nest Mini (originally called Google Home Mini) and Nest Hub (originally called Google Home Hub). Both are a couple of years old now and likely could use a refresh. In terms of Nest Hub, Google packed a lot more features into its 2019 Nest Hub Max. It would seem like time to add a few of those features to the nightstand-sized version as well.

What about Smart Home?

Amazon spent a lot of time the past two years highlighting its Ring product line along with Eero mesh networking equipment. Google has its own line of home security products and networking equipment. It would seem logical that Google would follow suit and talk about its broader Nest product line in advance of the holiday shopping season. All of these devices are designed to be complementary after all.

What about Google Assistant?

We have already seen recent news about Google Assistant feature updates and there likely will be more announced during Google’s upcoming developer streaming event next month. However, it would be a miss not to shine a spotlight on Assistant at a high profile event with all of the major media present. I am definitely expecting something showing Google Assistant processing on the edge and some talk about new security and privacy benefits. We are also likely to see a new productivity feature or two and maybe a demonstration of features that were previously announced.

However, the bigger play for Google would be to introduce some new services, particularly entertainment services that work with Google Assistant. The recent announcement of tighter integration with Disney+ was very popular if you just look at page views around news coverage. More along these lines would be a potential win for Google, especially considering how little there was in this area during Amazon’s event. Plus, the naming of Launch Night In suggests maybe they are going to talk about how to pass the time while stuck at home.

And, we almost certainly will have some mention of COVID-19 and how Google Assistant can help as a symptom checker and with contact tracing. It seem obligatory to say something about this topic even if there is not much news here.

What I’d Like to See

What I’d personally like to see but am not expecting is Google Duplex 2.0. This may not technically be a 2.0 version but instead, a new application beyond store hours, booking hair salon appointments, and making restaurant reservations. Google Duplex has genuine assistant features and a splash of agency that sets the Assistant apart from its peers. Extending those capabilities would make sense given that it is over two years now since the original Duplex demonstration.

A Focus on the Phone

With all of this said, Google will want to make Pixel 5 the star of the show. Google has invested heavily in Pixel and really does want to build that product line into a powerhouse. It also is the company’s showcase for all things mobile, often including Google Assistant. So, expect to see a lot about Pixel and how people can use it in everyday scenarios. You can watch the event live here at 2:00 pm EDT/11:100 am PDT.

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