Google Assistant is now on Sonos: Here’s what you can, and can't, do with it

The Assistant goes live on Sonos One and Beam

Google Assistant arrives on Sonos

If you can remember as far back as October 2017, you might recall Sonos announcing it would bring Google Assistant to its smart speakers. 18 months later, it’s actually happened. Starting today, if you live in the US and own a Sonos One or Sonos Beam soundbar, Google’s smart assistant is ready to be activated. For those of you in the UK, the update’s coming in July (sorry).

This means Sonos is the first to offer both assistants on a single speaker. There are some compromises, but the final result is good. I got to try the Assistant running on a final, launch-ready build, and the best thing I can say is that it was... unremarkable.

Guide: How to set up Google Assistant on Sonos

By that I mean there was little difference with the Google Assistant experience I'm already used to on other speakers. I asked a Sonos Beam to play a song. I asked for the news. I asked it to switch off a light. I booked a calendar appointment. Nothing exploded. Google didn't swear at me. It all worked as it was meant to.

But despite Sonos engineering both assistants on its speakers, you can't have them running at the same time. You're going to have to choose your champion, but the good news is that you can mix and match assistants across your Sonos speakers in the home, and have them intertwine smoothly.

There's not a precedent for having multiple assistants in the home

It's what Aaron Goldstein, Sonos' product manager in charge of the Google Assistant integration, keeps referring to as "continuity of control" in our demo. It's demonstrated where he starts a song with Google Assistant on the soundbar and then asks Alexa on the Sonos One, in the same room, to skip to the next track.

Trickier still, the list of music services supported by Google and Amazon are not the same, so you won't be able to start playing Apple Music with Google Assistant - but you can start it on Alexa and then have Google skip tracks, pause, or tell you what's playing, as all this metadata goes into the Sonos app. It's this "continuity of control" that gave Sonos the biggest problems to solve in getting Google Assistant working alongside Alexa.

Once you've got Google Assistant connected to Sonos, you can also use it to target older Sonos speakers that don't have Assistant on board, be it through the One and Beam, or using another Google Home device you have hooked up to your system.

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And if you're using HDMI ARC through the Beam, you can ask Assistant to turn the TV on/off and control volume, which you can also do with Alexa. If you have a Chromecast Ultra plugged into your TV or a Cast-enabled device, you can use Assistant on Sonos to Cast to it, much like how you can use Alexa to start a show on a Fire TV device. In my demo, someone asked the Assistant on the Beam to start playing Stranger Things on Netflix.

Google Assistant is now on Sonos: Here’s what you can, and can’t do, with it

Turn on the TV with the Google Assistant using

Beam’s HDMI ARC connection and CEC, switch from TV to music, and adjust the

specific shows or movies from streaming services.

"There's not really a precedent yet for having multiple assistants in the home," says Goldstein, who tells me Sonos will be watching how users receive and use Assistant and Alexa together, and adapt from there. Could it one day enable both assistants to live together at the same time? The company is certainly open to the idea. “It’s very early days. We are the first people who got it working on one system, so we want to make sure we nail the user experience. This is the best we’ve got right now, we’ll keep playing with it and experimenting”.

And in a press release announcing the integration rollout, Sonos CEO Patrick Spence said the company imagines a day where multiple assistants run on one speaker simultaneously, and that it's "committed to making that happen as soon as possible".

We

imagine a day where we’ll have multiple voice assistants operating concurrently on the same device, and we’re committed to making that happen as soon as possible.”

Google Assistant is now on Sonos: Here’s what you can, and can’t do, with it

What you can't do

While Assistant is plenty fleshed out on Sonos, there are still some limitations. Some of these will go away in time, but for now here's what you're missing with Assistant on Sonos.

You can’t voice call or use Broadcast mode

Google has a handful of features it tends to keep to its first-party devices, and these won't be available on Sonos, at least not to start with. This includes voice calling, Broadcast mode and Continued Conversations. Google told The Ambient that Voice Match will come "sooner rather than later", while Sonos is promising Continued Conversations, Broadcast mode and support for multiple voices in the future.

You can’t ‘duck’ across assistants

Ducking between assistants won’t work, so if you ask Google a question all speakers, including those running Alexa, will dim the volume.

You can't set routines from the Google Home app

Again, this one should be coming soon.

You can't start playing from rival exclusive music services

You can’t have Alexa start playing from a music service that Google supports - or vice versa - but when a song is playing, either assistant can skip tracks or tell you what’s playing. The Sonos app works as a metadata halfway house, sharing song and artist information across the platforms.


TAGGED   google   speakers

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