Google Home – First Look
I purchased Google Home a day after it was launched and have had a few days to evaluate it. In the past I’ve used Siri & Cortana – both of which require a computer / device and so are a little limiting. Enter Google Home. If Alexa from AWS had been released for Australia first, I would have purchased it, so cudos to Google for getting something to our market.
Google Home does an amazingly fast job of recognising and responding to your voice. You start with an “Ok Google” or a “Hey Google”, it lights up and then responds to you. On the box are some simple commands, but by far the best and most useful ones for me will be:
1. Playing music. I find that the Youtube integration works best. I have a premium Spotify which seems to buffer every once in a while. I need to figure out why that’s the case. Nevertheless, Youtube Red is free for 6 months. You can ask Google what song is currently playing, skip a song, pause a song. “Hey Google, play some dinner music”.
2. Adding items to my shopping list – Just a quick “Hey Google, add cheese to my shopping list” works great. Then on your phone you just go to shoppinglist.google.com and you see your list on your mobile device. Clicking one of these makes it dissapear – just how it should be!
3. Adding items to my calendar. This uses the Google Calendar, so I just downloaded it on my IOS device and sync the calendar. You just say something like “Hey Google, add a 9am meeting to my calendar”.
4. Add an alarm – using the device in the kitchen is great for adding cooking reminders “Hey Google, set an alarm for 5 minutes”.
5. Turn up or down the volume by just saying “Hey Google, turn it up” or “Hey Google, volume 60%”
6. Facts and figures – you can ask it just about any question and I’d say 9/10 work really well.
7. A quick calculator – adding up numbers while playing a game with friends is really simple. “Hey Google, what’s 50+12+63+96+76” for example
There are a bunch of other things you can do such as:
1. Ask it about the weather “Hey Google, what’s the weather” “Hey Google, is it raining”, “Hey Google, what’s the weather tomorrow”
2. Ask for for a news update. You configure the sources on the Google Home app
3. Ask for flight prices (approx)
4. Ask to say something in another language
5. Connect seamlessly to your Google Comcast – though I don’t see myself asking it to play a movie for me often
6. Tell you a joke
7. Quote from Shakespeare
8…and so much more…just ask!
A few things that need working on are:
1. Multi-voice recognition – I added mine and my partner, but then it failed to recognise mine. It took a while to remove them all and then just add mine. Sometimes it can’t recognise my voice, and it sometimes appears to forget who I am. Not sure if it’s just a voice thing.
2. It doesn’t wait long for an instruction after the “Hey Google” bit. If you’re a second slow you have to try again
3. The volume differs sometimes on songs versus when it responds to a question so you have to ask it again
4. It doesnt yet have multiple voices that I can see, not that this is a big problem.
I’ve not yet tried, but it is possible to hook up to other devices (e.g. having multiple ones around the house) and other IOT devices.
On the hardware side of things:
1. The cable is relatively long
2. The bass is really good and so is the quality of the sound. At 100% it’s really loud enough for a room or two. There’s no obvious sound distortion
3. The packaging is simple – a quick start guide and the item itself. Very “apple” in its packaging
I look forward to more updates, and these would be my next top 10:
1. Tell me when an email arrives
2. Read me an email
3. Send a text to someone
4. Take / make a call
5. Add to a to-do list
6. Have some configurable little lights (new email, new sms, news, voicemail, missed call etc)
It’s still early days yet but this little device has amazed me thus far. I think I’ll look back on this day and remember this being the start of a new wave of “artificial intelligence”.