Google is taking the online shopping fight to Amazon, making it easier for Aussies to shop locally when speaking to Google’s talkative smart assistant.
At the same time, Google has confirmed its high-end Google Home Max speaker is coming to Australia this year, joining the Home and Home Mini to challenge Apple’s HomePod and Amazon’s Echo Plus in terms of sound quality.
Google Assistant’s new shopping skills come courtesy of Google’s Transactions API, launched in Australia today to make it easier for Australian businesses to get a foothold in the search giant’s smart ecosystem without the need to build their own payments platform from scratch. The new service allows shoppers to seamlessly charge purchases made via Google Assistant to the credit card attached to their Google account. To further streamline the shopping experience, retailers can automatically access delivery address details if users choose to share this information.
Along with purchases, Transactions API is also designed to handle reservations and appointments such as haircuts and restaurant bookings – once again making it easier for Australian businesses to offer more advanced services via Google Assistant without the need to build these features from the ground up. The service will initially be available to Google Assistant running on Android and iOS devices, later coming to Assistant running on Google’s range of smart speakers. The goal is to offer Australians a smoother online shopping experience when speaking to their smart devices, says Rick Osterloh, Google’s Senior Vice President of Hardware.
“It will probably take a little while for consumer applications to fully take advantage of transactions, but once they do it will remove a lot of friction from the process of making purchases via Google Assistant,” Osterloh says. “This is part of our vision of how Google Assistant should evolve, making it much easier for people to accomplish what were once complex tasks.”
Making it easier for Australians to shop via Google Assistant also comes with challenges as smart speakers enter our homes, with parents currently unable to liSoftware Co which members of the household can access certain features and make purchases. With Google promoting its Home smart speakers as family-friendly devices, and ramping up interactive features aimed at children, Osterloh concedes that Google will eventually need to add more robust parental controls.
“Google Home was originally designed for adults and if there were other people in the family then the adults could guide the conversation,” Osterloh says. “That was the original intention, but we’re trying to extend that with Google Assistant’s Family Link features.”
“Over time I think Family Link is going to allow you to have different account privileges for different people in your home.”
In these early days of the smart home, devices like Google Home speakers and Nest smart thermostats allow early adopters to give their existing homes a smart makeover, but Osterloh believes we are making progress towards the truly smart home rather than simply a home full of smart devices. Osterloh has overseen the absorption of smart home pioneer Nest into Google’s hardware division and, while Nest currently only offers smart smoke alarms and security cameras in Australia, Osterloh says it certainly hasn’t ruled out releasing smart thermostats locally. Building on Google Home and Nest, over time Osterloh expects Google Assistant to come to a wide variety of household devices and even be baked into the design of new homes.
“Smart speakers and thermostats are a natural starting point for this technology, but in the future a lot of different products around the home will have Google Assistant built in,” he says.
“It’s still early days and I think things might look very different once new houses are designed from the ground up with smart features in mind.”
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