When it comes to smart home assistants, Alexa is in first place. Amazon has done a good job building in compatibility with a whole range of devices. Alexa better watch its back though, as Google Assistant is catching up.
Google Assistant is now compatible with more than 5,000 devices - that's up from 1,500 devices in January, Google announced in a blog post. This list includes cameras, doorbells, thermostats, dryers, lights, plugs, security systems, vacuums, washers, refrigerators, AC units and TVs.
In particular, Google Assistant has been getting more play with both TV and security systems. Google says Assistant queries to play music and entertainment on TVs have been up 400% in the past six months. This includes Android TVs with Google Assistant and TVs with attached Chromecast devices. Google also says it's working to bring Assistant to the next generation of TVs later this year.
Google will also collaborate with DirecTV to build Google Assistant into the satellite company's Hopper set top boxes. So you'll be to say something like "Play ESPN on the Hopper" and your TV will tune to ESPN. If you've got a Logitech Harmony hub, it'll be even simpler, as you'll be able to say things as natural as "play channel 4."
Thanks to the Nest Hello and Nest Secure, Google has also worked its way into the smart security game, but it's not stopping there. Security alarms from brands like ADT, First Alert and Vivint will also work with Google Assistant.
Google is also creating a new investment program to get early-stage companies on board with Google Assistant. Companies admitted to the program will gain investment from Google, advice from Google engineers, early access to future features and tools, access to the Google Cloud Platform, and promotional support from Google.
The first batch of companies in the program includes GoMoment, a hotel concierge service; Edwin, an English tutor; BotSociety, a development tool for voice assistant developers; and Pulse Labs, which helps voice assistant designers test their applications.
The arms race between Google Assistant and Alexa seems to be entering a new phase, as both add new features and create incentives for developers to choose them over a competitor. It's undoubtedly impressive that Google has added 3,500 devices in just a couple months, and it's nice to see Google take advantage of all its products and services, from Nest to Chromecast, to make Assistant better.