The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Google has been focused on the smart home for years, and in 2014 forecast broader ambitions in the space by buying smart appliance maker Nest for $3.2 billion. The tech firm also introduced its own line of routers, called OnHub, which it makes with other partners. The sleek update to the old, boxy router has been suggested as a possible Trojan horse for Google's smart home ambitions, as the perfect device to become the center hub for a web of Internet-connected devices. The router, however, doesn't have a microphone — obviously a key element for a voice-activated hub.
Whatever comes out of the Chirp project could look a lot like OnHub, Recode reported, and will use the same "Okay, Google" technology that is already baked into the firm's Android operating system. As the Recode report noted, there have been past fears that a Google-powered voice assistant wouldn't sit well with the privacy-conscious. But speech-powered devices are becoming generally more common and more consumers may be comfortable with the idea today than they were even a couple of years ago. Microsoft has built its Cortana assistant into its latest operating system. Apple's Siri has expanded her sphere of control from iPhones and iPads to the company's Apple TV, which could also position itself as a smart home hub by working with smart appliances.
If the Recode report is correct, however, Google's closest competitor would be Amazon's line of devices powered by its Alexa voice assistant. While Amazon has been characteristically opaque about how many units of the Echo have shipped, the voice-activated speaker and assistant seems to be doing well. The firm recently announced it is adding two more models to the Echo line and is continually piling on more functions to Alexa by way of partnerships with companies from Domino's Pizza to Uber. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.)
With its broad range of services — search, maps, calendar, etc. — Google is in a good position to run a powerful home hub of its own that taps into its own products, as well as a growing list of partnerships of its own. (For example, the company announced today that Google Docs will integrate with the popular note-taking app Evernote.) If the Chirp system fully leverages Google's clout, it definitely would give Amazon a run for its money.