Google wants to get its Assistant software in as many cars as possible.
To do that, the search giant partnered with Anker, the electronic accessories company, on the Roav Bolt. The $50 device, set for release on Monday, is like a Google Home Mini for your car. It lets you access the Assistant -- the�Google�rival to Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri -- to pull up directions, send texts or make calls by using voice controls.
Here's how it works: Plug the device into a car's cigarette lighter, and it pairs with your phone via Bluetooth. It has an auxiliary jack you can plug into your car so the audio flows directly from the car's stereo. While it's connected, you can command it to turn off your lights at home, play a podcast or set a reminder by saying "Hey Google," the trigger words for the Assistant.
The Roav Bolt, which was�announced in January at CES, will be available Monday in store and online at Best Buy, and online at Walmart. It will be available in store at Walmart and Target in "coming weeks," Google said.
Devices like the Anker product are key to Google as it tries to spread its Assistant far and wide. That's crucial as people increasingly search for stuff outside of desktop computers and Google's iconic search engine. The 20-year-old company wants to make sure it's still the go-to source for information when it comes to voice searches and other types of queries.
As for getting the Assistant in cars, Google also has its Android Auto service. But the company's strategy with the Roav Bolt is to be able to jury rig older cars with the new capabilities. It's similar to what the company did with its Chromecast streaming device. With the Chromecast, the idea was to inject video streaming technology into older TVs that didn't have it built in. All you had to do with plug in a small stick that looks like a flash drive, and you could watch content from Netflix or HBO Go.
Same idea with the Roav Bolt. Google wants to let people outfit older cars with its Assistant tech -- particularly those vehicles without dashboard screens or entertainment systems. For cars that don't have cigarette lighters, the company plans to make different devices that you could plug into other places in your car, Tomer Amarilio, a Google product manager, said last week during a demo in San Francisco.
"It's bridging the gap," he said. "We wanted to target people who already have a Google Home, but want it in their cars."
At CES, Google announced the Assistant had hit 1 billion devices. But that figure is a little skewed, since the vast majority of those devices are Android phones, which come with the software preinstalled. Still, when I asked Scott Huffman, who leads engineering for the Assistant, where other devices could make up ground, at the time he said the biggest opportunity is in cars and homes.
"Between those two, that's a lot of devices," he said.�