Robots capable of doing most household chores are still some years away, but machines that can do tasks not requiring physical activity are already here, and tech companies are racing to grab a piece of that market.
The newest "home assistant" is a small, affordable tabletop speaker with a brain, created by Google. Think of a small radio that can play music but also answer complex questions, browse a dictionary, look up recipes, order a taxi or theater tickets, control other smart devices, retrieve flight information, and — with your permission — slowly learn about your habits and preferences.
Similar devices, such as Amazon's Echo or Apple's Siri, have been on the market for some time, but Google says its gadget, Google Home, has the advantage of having direct access to Google's vast database.
Like other devices, it is activated by a spoken keyword — which in its case is "OK, Google." It has no other physical controls save for the microphone on-off button and a touch-sensitive top for play-pause and volume control. Four different-colored, animated LED lights on top indicate when the device is listening for commands.
Google's partnership with Samsung and Phillips enables the gadget's control of their smart home appliances.
The price of Google Home is $129, and shipping to customers in the U.S. starts November 4.