Google might have the better smart speaker, but Amazon’s Echo family leads the market. While Google has recently announced its Google Home Mini and Google Home Max (the latter available only in the US for now), Amazon still has more devices – including the Echo Show and the smaller Echo Spot, smart speakers with a touchscreen display, something Google doesn’t offer. Yet.
At CES 2018 Google announced that the Google Assistant is coming to a range of new devices it’s dubbed ‘smart displays’, which add a touchscreen display to the standard smart speaker setup. At I/O 2018 in May it then confirmed the first of these devices would go on sale in July.
Four devices have so far been announced, manufactured by Lenovo, LG, JBL, and Sony. Each combines the standard smart speaker hardware and Google Assistant software with a touchscreen display and camera for video calling, YouTube videos, visualisations of map directions, and more. You can see the sort of functionality the smart displays offer in Google’s promo video:
At CES 2018 we tested out the Lenovo Smart Display, one of the first to be announced in full. It will be available with either an 8in or 10in screen, and will cost $199.99 or $249.99 depending on the size.
We know a little less about the other devices on offer. LG’s ThinQ WK9 and JBL’s View were both on display at CES, but neither company has announced pricing. Sony has said even less – we know the company is working on a smart display, but know nothing else about it.
Google Home smart display
Surprisingly, these devices are all partnerships with third-party manufacturers, and so far Google hasn’t announced any plans to develop smart display devices in-house – though there’s good reason to expect an official Google device in the future.
That’s because we know that in December 2017 Google put out feelers for a Touch Sensor Hardware Engineer for Google Home, as evidenced by a LinkedIn job post unearthed by Trusted Reviews.
“In this role, you’ll work on the next generation of Google Hardware to enable the best multi-touch user experience. You will lead the touch module development and integration for Google Hardware from concept to mass production,” states the job description.
The eventual hire will “work to define complete touch solutions” and make “our user’s interaction with computing faster, more powerful, and seamless”, it continues.