As it turns out, Google will have a voice-powered smart home controller to chirp about when it kicks off its Google I/O developers conference, as the company looks to take on Amazon and its popular Amazon Echo speaker.
The New York Times reports that Google will take the wraps off a smart home device called Google Home when the search giant's three-day conference gets underway in Mountain View, California tomorrow (May 18). The device will respond to your voice and be able to carry out simple commands.
Last week, rumors heated up about a voice-controlled smart home device code-named Chirp that Google had in the works. That device was expected to look a lot like Google's OnHub router, according to an earlier report from Recode. The latest New York Times report offers no further details on what Amazon Home will look like or if it will tap into the Google Now voice assistant, as has widely been expected.
Whatever shape Google Home does take, it will face stiff competition from Amazon's speaker, which uses a voice assistant called Alexa to handle tasks like playing back your music, turning on your lights and even ordering you a pizza. The Echo works with several smart home hubs, and the list of things you can do with the Echo is growing all the time, as Amazon has let developers tweak their products and apps to take advantage of Alexa.
That's likely why we can expect to see the Google Home at tomorrow's developer conference, even though the New York Times doesn't expect to ship the product into the fall. Making the new smart home product available now to developers gives Google a chance to close the gap that Amazon has opened up with the Alexa and Echo.
Google's facing pressure on other fronts with voice-powered assistants. While Google introduced many voice features to Google Now long before its rivals, updates from Microsoft and Apple have made their respective Cortana and Siri assistants much more robust. Siri even powers Apple's Apple TV set-top box, and the company is expected to add Siri support to OS X later this year.
Look for Google to use its I/O conference to remind everyone — including the developers in attendance — that it still has something to say about voice controls.
We'll have detailed reports on all of Google's I/O announcements, starting at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT on Wednesday, May 18.