Monday, 11 December 2017
News Tech

Unannounced Google Assistant headphones show up at Best Buy


After bringing the Google Assistant to third-party speakers, Google has been slowly gearing up to bring the Assistant to another sound-producing device: headphones. While, officially, Google hasn’t made a peep about the project, inside the Google App there have been references to a new “Bisto” device type: a pair of headphones with the Google Assistant built in. Partners apparently aren’t waiting for Google’s announcement, as one of the first Google Assistant headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, is already showing up at Best Buy.

The functionality of “Google Assistant headphones” seems to be about what you would expect: the same Google Assistant commands you get on Google Home or on a phone but strapped to your head. Users can issue commands, ask questions, send text messages by voice, make phone calls, and access third-party voice apps via the headphones.

Headphones have a unique feature that revolves around notifications, with an option in the Google App that “Allows spoken notifications on your headphones.” The code for this is already shipping today in the Google Search app, and Android Police has a big teardown revealing what the app is planning to do. According to descriptions in the Google app, the headphones will “chime” when a notification comes in, and the users will be able to press a special “Google Assistant button” on the headphones to have the notification read to them.

Replying to these notifications will apparently be easier than on other devices, since another button can be held to issue a reply to the last read notification. No one has ever tried this because it’s not out yet, but it seems like an extensive system based on what’s in the Google app. It’s not just the Android app; special Google Assistant headphone pairing has shown up in the iOS Google app, too.

The QuietComfort 35 II is an update to Bose’s flagship noise-cancelling headphones and will be one of the first headphones to integrate the Google Assistant. 9to5Google reports that these are currently in Best Buy’s system, are set to ship September 22, and, like the original QC35s, will cost $350.

Google’s next big event is October 4, where we’re definitely expecting to see the launch of the Pixel 2, and, like last year, the event could also show off a host of other Google projects. Possible other devices are a new Chromebook Pixel, a mini Google Home, and a pair of Google-branded headphones. Neither of the Pixel 2 models has a headphone jack, so a pair of special Google-branded, Google Assistant Bluetooth headphones sounds like a likely accessory.

I have so many questions. Why do headphones need the Google Assistant “built in?” Unless you’re hooking them up to an iPod, a smartphone has all the “smarts” needed to do this—Google Assistant functionality seems like something you could just build into an app that works with any pair of headphones equipped with a microphone. In fact, some of the smarts here are built into an app: the Google Search app used for the settings. Also, people usually wear headphones in a public place where you want audio to be private and quiet. Does anyone imagine themselves shouting commands at the Google Assistant in a library or on the subway?

Listing image by TheNorwegian



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