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Google Home: New features coming in 2017

The UK was the first market outside of the US to get its hands on Google Home, the company's connected speaker with its Google Assistant AI built-in, and now, following its I/O 2017 developer conference, there's a whole host of new functionality on the way worth hearing about.

New availability

The company's Rishi Chandra kicked off his stint onstage at I/O 2017 by announcing that Home will be coming to more markets across the globe starting in summer. New locales include Canada, Australia, France, Germany and Japan

Multiple users

Currently, when setting up Google Home it's best to tie it to your Google account so that it can (amongst other things) pull information from your calendar or your commute, the problem is for a device like the Home there's a strong chance that multiple users are actually firing queries off at it and yet only one of them can use it to its full potential.

Google confirmed that it's finally reworking one of the biggest shortcomings of Google Home in its current incarnation, with multiple user support. Home will be able to recognise different voices and then provide different answers relevant to whoever asked the question as a result. That means unique Daily Briefings, commute information and reminders for each user.

Proactive Notifications

As well as answering queries and questions when asked, Google wants the Home to be a little more proactive by leveraging the aptly named Proactive Notifications. Like a pupil raising a hand in a classroom, Home will light up when it wants to let you know something's amiss.

The on-stage demo had the Home suggest leaving earlier for a calendar appointment, based on increasingly bad traffic, so as to still arrive on time, however, it will also flash up things like reminders and flight changes too.

Hands-Free Calling

Along with the issue of multiple users, one other quirk of Home at launch was the absence of any calling functionality which seemed strange for a product such as this coming from a company that also happens to own on the of the most prevalent mobile operating systems in the world.

Luckily Google heard our snide comments and it adding hands-free calling to the Home, starting in the US. You'll be able to place and end calls with voice to any number in the US or Canada (at launch). Saying actions like "call mum" will also leverage voice recognition so that it calls the right mother for the right user too.

By default, Google Home will call out using a private number but the company said users that want to will be able to tie in their personal number to the service instead. The feature will arrive as a free software update to US Google Home owners with no word yet on its availability across the pond.

More ways to play media

You can already play the likes of Google Play Music or Spotify Premium on the Home but a forthcoming update will also expand such functionality to Spotify Free accounts as well as added support for SoundCloud and Deezer.

For a connected speaker, its inability to pair with devices over Bluetooth also seemed like another notable oversight, but Google has indeed now confirmed that that too will be fixed, so you'll be able to play tunes from any Bluetooth-based source soon enough.

On the video front with expecting some more fresh sources too, with the US lineup cited to include: Hulu, HBO Now, Food Network, Crackle, Google Play Movies, Red Bull TV and more. There's no mention yet of new UK partners.

Visual responses

Just as with the Google Assistant's original proposition queries to the Google Home will now be more context aware and provided you have a suitable screen setup and Home's response makes use of it, you'll now receive visual feedback alongside any audible answers it gives.

Google Home will send the directions for your next meeting straight to Google Maps on your phone, whilst calendar entries and incoming weather can be shown on a Chromecast-connected TV. As for media playback, you'll now be able to specify YouTube playlists or, for those YouTube TV users, actual shows that you want to be thrown up on the big screen, all using voice.

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