Google Home Max, the big sister to Google Home, is launching in Canada May 16 for $499 and there are some Canadian connections involved in the product’s development.
Google Canada demonstrated the big grey speaker that drastically outsizes the original, cylindrical Google Home unit in both its physical presence and volume. This speaker is 13.3 inches wide, 6.1 inches deep and 7.5 inches tall and it weighs in at 11.7 lbs. Google describes it as “20 times more powerful” than the original Google Home and its volume can really fill a room.
While Canada had to wait since Dec. 11, 2017 for the Max to migrate across the border, there are some local contributions to the Google Home experience showcased here, according to Raunaq Shah, senior product manager at Google.
The Home Max fits into the Google Assistant family of devices as the most expensive, premium option that’s meant for music lovers. Where the Google Home Mini is perfect to squeeze onto your crowded desk and the original Google Home may find its place in your living room, the Max is intended for your party room. There’s a lot of engineering that went into the audio quality, including the selection of a polycarbonate shell that won’t vibrate as a result of high volume.
Looking at the competitive space for smart speakers right now, the Max lines up well against Apple’s HomePod. The HomePod is Apple’s only smart speaker option right now, and Google seems to be sending the message that it can deliver a product for music lovers too, and it’s got a better ecosystem of support if you want to integrate the experience across your home. Google emphasizes that its speaker uses its microphones to listen for any reverb bouncing off the nearby wall and adapt to it with some machine learning magic. That’s similar to Apple’s promise that its speaker can adapt itself to suit any space.
Engineers at the Google office in Kitchener, Ont. had a role to play in some of the machine learning components that are part of the “Made by Google” hardware strategy. Even though a plethora of third-party manufacturers are building Google Assistant into devices, Google still feels it can create unique value in the hardware product space with its machine learning expertise, Shah says.
“There’s a ton of hardware engineering that’s gone into this product, from the acoustics to the AI and machine learning,” he says. “There are pain points in the home that we feel we are able to solve by a combination of these factors.”
The Kitchener team also had a role to play in the design of the Google Home app that is used to interact with the Home hardware family on iOS and Android. The team specifically focused on making for a good “out of the box” experience that guides users through set up and feature discovery.
Lastly, some Google product specialists in Montreal have helped teach the Google Assistant French. The Assistant can speak the Quebecois dialect of French with all the right nuances and even knows what jokes are funny in French.
“Making sure that we cover the spoken languages of the market is important to us and that’s something we’re constantly improving,” Shah says.
The Max can be placed into a multi-room group with any other Google Home device, or Chromecast Audio device. Two of them can also be combined into a stereo pair.
The Google Home Max is available for purchase at the Google Store and Best Buy Canada. There are two colour options – chalk or charcoal.