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Google Home gets voice calling

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The words “Unknown caller” on a ringing cell phone may no longer be a sign that the call is going straight to voicemail. Soon those calls may come from friends or family members who have Google’s smart home assistant. The company is adding free voice calls to Google Home, meaning that users will be able to make outgoing calls over Wi-Fi. Google Home is not yet able to receive incoming calls.

Google Home will not use cellular networks and the Google Home assistant is independent of a user’s smartphone hardware, although it does rely on a smartphone app for some features. A user who has synchronized his or her contacts with the Google Home assistant will be able to use voice commands to call those contacts.

Google is building on the voice recognition technology that it announced last spring. By repeating the phrases “OK, Google” and “Hey Google,” users can train their Google Home devices to recognize their voices. A smartphone app enables the user to link a personal profile to Google Home, so that when the user asks for information the device delivers it from the right calendar or contact list.

So why would a Google Home user make a call from the smart home assistant instead of from a smartphone? For one thing, Google is not charging anything for voice calls. The company is also promoting the hands-free feature of its device, which it hopes will be close to users in the busiest parts of their homes. It’s unlikely that the average user will be closer to the Google Home assistant than to their smartphone, which most people keep with them at all times. But the ability to activate Google Home simply by speaking to the device could be convenient for some users.

Google said that by the end of the year, users will be able to have their own mobile numbers displayed when they make outgoing calls using Google Home. Those who use Google Voice of Project Fi can activate that feature now, the company said.

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