"Ok Google, skip ahead 30 seconds."
Go ahead and ask that to your Pixel while playing music. A useless web search, right? Now try it on Google Home. It actually works. And that's the real shame, because this is happening across the board with Google Assistant: commands that work on Pixel don't work on Home, commands that work on Home don't work on Pixel, and don't get me started on the stripped-down version of Assistant Google is trying to peddle on Allo. The fragmentation that Google Assistant has seen in just two months on two products doesn't inspire confidence for current and potential users.
The fragmentation of Assistant across devices doesn't inspire confidence.
I was so excited for Google Assistant. As a former Moto X user, I was quite looking forward to seeing an always-listening assistant who could connect and control more devices, more services, more tasks. While a Pixel was out of my price range, a Google Home was affordable (not cheap, but affordable) enough to indulge myself one. While many are dissuaded by the lack of services available at the moment, but as an early adopter of Chromecasts, I know it won't be like that for long. Once Actions on Google opens up next month to developers, the list of commands Google Assistant recognizes will rise quickly. Not being able to set reminders or watch purchased YouTube videos is a pain, but that's not the promise being lived down the most right now: it's consistency.
The Pixel is billed as the first phone with Google Assistant. The Home is billed as a voice-activated speaker powered by Google Assistant. Google Assistant is not just some lofty idea, not some beta that we early adopters get to play with before everyone else; Google Assistant is a selling point. Selling points only succeed if they work, and right now Google Assistant works — barely.
Google Assistant is clearly meant to be a multi-platform assistant, from your watch to your car to your home and everywhere in between. If Google Assistant is going to be in all these places, and the closest/clearest device is going to be responding to your query whenever you cry "Ok Google" then no matter what device you pick up, the response needs to be the same. I should be able to say "Ok Google, skip ahead 30 seconds" in the car with as much success as I say it in the shower to Google Home. If I say "Ok Google, call my mom", Assistant on Google Home should be able to recognize that it can't place calls and kick the command back to my phone, just as it kicks the "Answering on another device" message to it every time I use OK Google in earshot of both devices.
Yes, Google Assistant is a service in its infancy, but the products it's running on are otherwise complete thoughts. The Pixel is the first phone from Google where it feels like a complete thought rather than a beta device for developers, and Google Assistant is one of its secret weapons. Google Home is a powerful little speaker that works wonderfully as a Google Cast target, and its touchpad top is giving me all kinds of clickwheel nostalgia, but $130 is too much for a Cast-speaker alone. Google Home is going to live and die on Google Assistant.
There's little doubt Google Assistant can be more amazing than voice-enabled chatbot or AI to date… but it needs to be whole to accomplish that, not fragmented across devices and platforms.
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