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Google to Introduce Its Voice-Activated Home Device - Technology Markets - NAIRAWAY

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Google to Introduce Its Voice-Activated Home Device by procontractor: 12:14 am On May 19, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO — Google will introduce its much-anticipated entry into the voice-activated home device market on Wednesday, according to people who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Named Google Home, the device is a virtual agent that answers simple questions and carries out basic tasks. It is to be announced at Google’s annual developers’ conference in Silicon Valley.

Google Home will come to market in the fall — a long time away, given the speed of technology, but Google needed to plant a stake in the ground now. The device will compete with Amazon’s Echo, which was introduced less than two years ago. Amazon has already sold an estimated three million units.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.

Virtual agents powered by artificial intelligence are one of the major new battlegrounds for consumer technology. Apple’s Siri, released in October 2011, drew widespread attention but it was the Echo that, after mixed initial reviews, has become a genuine consumer application.

Among the recent features added to Alexa, as the Echo’s software brain is called, are the ability to summon a car from Uber, order pizza from Domino’s and get fitness information from Fitbit and election news from NBC.

“Amazon, Facebook, Apple and others are all heading towards the virtual agent,” said Julie A. Ask, an analyst with Forrester Research. “Google has seemingly let the competition catch up — level the playing field, even. It’s all the more critical that they do well here, given earlier misses on instant messaging and social media.”

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Some elements of the Google product were reported earlier by the technology news sites Recode and The Information.

Virtual agents are a work in progress. Questions are already arising about privacy, disclosures and the quality of the information being doled out. The more information a company has about your habits, interests, purchases and opinions, the better its agent can serve you.

“We’re making everything contextually aware,” Sundar Pichai, then the head of Google’s Android phone software program, said at the 2014 developers’ conference. “We want to know when you’re at home, with your kids.”

Mr. Pichai is now chief executive of Google and will deliver this year’s keynote address to developers.

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