Sorry Amazon, Echo's got company. At it's 2016 Google I/O conference, Google showed off the Chromecast team's latest gadget – Google Home, a voice activated smart hub that can do, well, basically anything Google wants it to.
With a built in speaker and connected to Wi-Fi, Google Home is plugged right into the Google Search knowledge database. Tapping into Google's newly-revealed Google Assistant tech, you can ask Google Home any question and with search built in it'll give you an answer. Ask "How much fat is in an avocado?", and you'll not only get the same accurate answer you would from Google search, spoken to you by the Google Home speaker, but you'll be able to follow up with context sensitive response and the hub will understand. Ask "What can I cook with it?" from that previous leading question, and Google Home will know you're still talking about avocados, without having to explicitly mention it again.
LEDs in the Google colour scheme will let you know when it's at work:
Give Google Home access to information about you from other Google products, and Google Home will adapt to your needs too. You'll be able to get calendar information, flight itineraries, reminders, alerts, the works.
As a Wi-Fi speaker, Google Home can stream music directly from the cloud too. Ask for a specific song, playlists, artist or album and Google Home will instantly start streaming it from Google's Music service. Networked with a Chromecast Audio or TV Chromecast, and Google Home can be used to create a multi-room speaker set up. It can likewise be used to get a video playing on your TV just through a voice request, providing you've got both gadgets speaking to each other over your network.
Google Home supports Google Cast with both iOS and Android, so it's not just limited to Google's own smartphone ecosystem.
Likewise, in time Google hopes for Google Home to become an Internet of Things control centre for the whole home. It'll connect to smart home gear, including "the most popular home networking systems" for lighting (let's assume that's Philips Hue), or heating systems such as Google's own Nest, and a quick voice command can control the lot of it.
It is, essentially, HAL for the home. There's no set release date yet, but Google has teased a release for later this year, with different colour bases that can be swapped out to match your home decor. Hopefully that'll include a UK rollout, too.