Gear | June 20, 2016 9:00 am

Our Robot Overlords Are Here, and They’re … Actually Really Helpful

Google Home vs. Amazon Echo: A side-by-side comparison

Your home is about to get smarter, more efficient and better at taking orders.

And we’re not talking clap lights.

Chasing the coattails of Amazon’s Echo, which has sold around three million units since its debut 18 months ago, Google recently announced their analogous “Home project,” a voice-enabled “smart speaker” and on-demand virtual assistant.

Digital surveillance fears aside, it’s pretty clear both of these speakers (as well as social robots like Jibo, their natural offspring) are about to become a household normality.

So get to know ‘em. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two.

Amazon Echo: The Echo performs a variety of functions, from playing music (or reading you books/articles from to making grocery lists to setting timers, as well as utilizing IFTTT functionality to automate pretty much any virtual task you can think of. “Alexa,” the name of Echo’s virtual assistant, also provides a more human-sounding alternative to Apple’s Siri.

Google Home: Google took a minimalist approach when making the Home. Like Alexa, Assistant (the speaker’s rather less humanized AI)  performs tasks like scheduling appointments, checking traffic status and playing music. It also integrates with home devices like Nest or Canary. For spoken queries, Assistant uses Google’s massive database to answer specific questions and more complex demands. The one thing that makes the Google Home stand out — and why many techies regard it as the next evolution of a virtual assistant — is the speaker’s ability to hold a conversation with the user.

Amazon Echo: The Echo’s dark chassis is perfect for those who want a modern-looking speaker. The cylindrical shape and matte black finish mean it won’t clash with your home’s decor.
Google Home: Sporting a more zaftig design and lighter color scheme, the Home is buttonless and features LED lights that signal if the device is properly working. Like the Echo, the Home has to be plugged in. The body of the speaker is white, while the base of the home can be swapped out for a color that suits the decor of your living space.

Both units offer a tease as to what in-home AI could evolve into in the near future. Both have their strengths; both have room to grow. For now, your choice of future robot overlords is ultimately a matter of personal preference.

That said, having interacted with Alexa in the flesh, we can assure you she’s a gas.