Google Unveils Its Amazon Echo Competitor

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - MAY 18: Google Vice President of Product Management Mario Queiroz shows the new Google Home during Google I/O 2016 at Shoreline Amphitheatre on May 19, 2016 in Mountain View, California. The annual Google I/O conference is runs through

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This story originally appeared on Reuters

Alphabet's Google Inc. unveiled its answer to Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant along with new messaging and virtual reality products at its annual I/O developer conference on Wednesday, doubling down on artificial intelligence and machine learning as the keys to its future.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai introduced Google Assistant, a virtual personal assistant designed to perform voice-controlled tasks, along with the tabletop speaker appliance Google Home.

Amazon's Echo, a surprise hit that has other tech giants racing to match it, uses a virtual assistant called Alexa, a cloud-based system that controls the Echo speaker and responds to voice-controlled commands by users.

"You can be in front of this structure in Chicago and ask Google who designed this and it will understand in this context that the name of that designer is Anish Kapoor," said Pichai, pointing toward a photo of Chicago's Cloud Gate sculpture. Like Alexa, Google Assistant can search the Internet and adjust your schedule. However, Pichai said Google Assistant can use images and other information to provide more intuitive results.

Allo, a rival to Facebook's WhatsApp and other messaging services, will feature end-to-end encryption.For Google Home, the Google Assistant merges with Chromecast and smart home devices to control televisions, thermostats and other products. It will also connect to Google's new Allo messaging app, which is scheduled for release this summer.

Google did not offer a specific release date or pricing for Google Home, saying only that it will be available later this year.

(Reporting by Deborah M. Todd in Mountain View and Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Alan Crosby)

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