Google (GOOG,GOOGL) is bringing its AI-powered Assistant from the smartphone to the small screen with its new line of smart displays, and the first such device to make its debut here at CES 2018 is the aptly named Lenovo Smart Display.
If it sounds like this device is aimed squarely at taking on Amazon’s (AMZN)Echo Show, then, well, you’re absolutely right. I spent some time with the Smart Display, which will be available for $199 in an 8-inch model or $229 in a 10-inch model late this summer, and it’s both better looking than Amazon’s offering, and has one key element the e-commerce giant’s gadget is missing: YouTube.
A screen with smarts
The Smart Display — man, I wish it had a better name — is essentially a screen and speaker that take advantage of the power of Google Assistant. Like Amazon’s Echo Show, you can ask the Smart Display to pull up your schedule, check the weather and play music. But the Smart Display also plugs into all of the pieces of Google you have scattered through your life.
For example, you can ask it for directions to work, and it will pull up the best route to your office. And thanks to Google’s Voice Match, results are tailored to whoever is asking a question. So your directions to work will be different than your husband’s directions.
Voice Match also works for Google Photos, so when you ask to check out pictures from New York, you’ll see your own specific photos, and not those taken by your wife, kids or roommates.
More importantly, Assistant-powered smart displays like Lenovo’s will offer YouTube functionality, something Google stripped from Amazon’s Echo Show and Fire TV in retaliation for Amazon not selling Google’s hardware products.
The joys of cooking
One of the impressive use cases Google showed off during my short time with the Smart Display was how well it works when cooking dinner. You can ask the Smart Display what you want to have for dinner and it will automatically pull up a list of suggested recipes.
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