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OK Google: Copy Amazon and Build a Smart Speaker with a Screen

January 8, 2018

Google Assistant is seeking a popularity boost by coming to gadgets with screens—a move Amazon already made with Alexa.

Copycat: Google said Monday that it will let companies make touch-screen devices that include its Google Assistant digital helper, making it possible to ask questions that can be best answered with videos, like “How do I bake a pie?” The move sounds a lot like what Amazon’s already doing with its Echo Show, a $230 countertop gadget with a display and a speaker that runs Amazon’s Alexa assistant.

The details: In a blog post, Google Assistant vice president Scott Huffman said the company is working with four partners who will make the gadgets—JBL, Lenovo, LG, and Sony. Users will be able to do things like watch videos on YouTube, make video calls with Google’s Duo video-chat app, and view photos with Google Photos. In a separate blog post, Lenovo said its forthcoming device, Lenovo Smart Display, is slated to be available early this summer; it will cost $200 for a model with an eight-inch display or $250 for one with a 10-inch display.

The bottom line: Digital assistants are a fast-growing market, and companies like Google and Amazon are adding their AI-powered helpers to more and more devices. The hope is that hardware makers and app developers will keep making the gadgets more and more capable—and that consumers will find them irresistible.  

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