Alexa may have a head start on Google when it comes to controlling a wide range of devices, but Google isn’t giving up the race just yet.
It seems as though Amazon and Google won’t rest until you can talk to everything with a power cable. Alexa came to Sony TVs earlier this year, allowing you to flick through channels and change the volume with a vibration of the vocal chords, and now Google has updated its own Android TV platform with Google Assistant.
It’s only on one device to start with, the Nvidia Shield internet TV box, but it will also be coming to Sony Bravia TVs in the coming months. Sony’s latest TVs already have Alexa, but it’s possible that Google Assistant will be available on older Sony models with Android TV built in.
For now, at least, getting Google Assistant on your TV isn’t cheap. The Nvidia Shield costs close to £200, which is on the expensive side for an internet TV box, but is it worth it for the voice commands?
Top five cheap internet TV boxes – you don’t need to pay £200 for a good streamer.
What does Google Assistant bring to Android TV?
Remotes are so passé and, with the wide range of voice commands at your disposal, you shouldn’t need one unless you have to head into the settings. As with the Google Home smart hub, saying ‘OK Google’ will rouse the sleeping assistant. You can then use your voice to find what you want to watch, and control the volume, playback and more.
We don’t know every command you’ll have at your disposal, but these are the features Google confirmed:
- Play a specific show – if you know the name of what you want to watch, and it’s available on a service you’re subscribed to, then this request will take you right to it.
- Search for types of film – this can either be genres, or films and shows that feature specific things. So if you wanted to watch a film about ships, for example, you just need to ask.
- Control your playback – you can use your voice to control volume, pausing, fast-forwarding and rewinding.
- Play music – you can ask Google Assistant to play specific songs from YouTube Music, Google Play Music, Spotify or Pandora.
- Turn it off – when you’ve finished a 10-episode Sunday binge, you can tell the streamer to turn off without hunting for the remote.
Control more than your TV
Where Alexa could only control the TV itself, Google Assistant goes one step further. It effectively turns the Nvidia Shield into a smart hub, giving you access to all the features you would find on a Google Home.
That means you’ll be able to control a range of smart devices, from thermostats to light bulbs, as well as getting news and weather briefings, and setting reminders. There’s no speaker inside the Shield, but it can use your TV’s speakers instead.
By updating your Nvidia Shield, you are effectively getting a free smart hub. If the features are the same when the update comes to Sony TVs, then they will become smart hubs, too.
Google is lagging behind Amazon when it comes to smart-home control, with the Amazon Echo dominating when it comes to sales. But if the company is happy to turn anything with an internet connection and a microphone into a smart hub free of charge, then Google Assistant could pull ahead in the race for ubiquity.
See which hubs we rate most highly in our list of the top-rated home hubs.