Google Home gives you search and control from your voice
I’m a fan of the Amazon Echo and other digital assistants so when I was able to test out Google’s new voice-activated assistant, Google Home, I was more than happy to do so. The Google Home is a voice-activated speaker that uses the Google Assistant to do things. It’s about the size of a desktop Bluetooth speaker and it gives you the opportunity to control certain aspects of your home and daily life. The body of the device is designed to blend in with your regular home decor. It looks modern and works well with varying styles of interior design. The Google Home is first and foremost a speaker. As such, it’s equipped with a microphone and play/pause and volume control. The basic speaker controls are integrated into the touch surface on the top of the speaker. Because it’s voice activated, you can also control Google Home by talking to it. Commands like, “Play Pandora Radio,” will enable the music player on the device.
Google Home has some pretty impressive specs. First of all, it supports HE-AAC and LC-AAC+ audio formats as well as 802.11ac (2.4GHz/5Ghz) WiFi. The speaker, which is what the Home is built on is a 2″ driver and dual 2″ passive radiators. I love how the speaker is cleverly hidden within the base of the device. As a speaker, it’s really quite amazing. At 100% volume, you could hear music being played from it throughout our 1800 sqft home. I also found that the microphone is very high quality. We were in the room next to our living room – where the Google Home resides – and we asked Home to turn off the lights. She responded and successfully turned off all the lights in the house.
Even though I’m more of an Apple user, I really appreciate Google’s self-integration with devices like the Home. For one thing, the search is blazing fast. I used to have a virtual assistant called UBI, which pre-dated the other voice assistants like Google Home and Alexa. The search function worked on it, but it was slow – sometimes taking a solid minute to speak the answer back. Google Home responds within about 3 seconds whereas Siri on my iPhone 7 took about 7 seconds to tell me a response. All of Google Home’s functions are quick and precise. Another test we ran was to request that Siri and Google Home both turn on Hue lights in a specific room of our home. Again Home was faster. When asked, “Turn on the Living Room lights,” Siri took approximately 3.6 seconds to respond while Google Home only took about 3 seconds. What’s remarkable about this to me is that the two devices are running on the exact same network.
Set-up of the device is very easy. You plug it into power and then follow the instructions on the companion app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. Basically, once the Home is connected to the internet, you can start using it. The app is truly a companion because other than set-up, you don’t really need to use it. The app gives you pointers like ‘Things to ask’ and helps you connect other services like Music services and Home controls. You do have to use the app to connect your other smart devices in your home.
Probably the most impressive thing about the Google Home is the follow-up functionality when you ask questions. For example, you can ask, “Who is the current President of the United States?” And Home will answer, “Barack Obama.” You can then say, “How old is he?” Home will respond, “He is 55 years old.” Other voice assistants will get confused and say that they can’t answer the question because it doesn’t get the reference back to the original question. This is a function of the Google Assistant and it pulled through into this device flawlessly.
One of my favorite thing about Google Home, aside from how well it works, is how fun it is. Google Home provides an entertainment outlet in addition to a functional assistant. You can play trivia games with it, which makes it a fun addition to family gatherings. Say you are sitting around with friends and want to do something other than visit. You can simply say, “Play a trivia game,” and Google Home will act as your game show host. You can let it know how many people are playing and it will ask questions for each player in the correct order. We tried this out a couple of times with no problems. You can also have Google Home just ask you single questions if you are on your own.
As easy as Google Home is to set-up and use, it does still have its limitations. They are limitations that I feel that Google will upgrade over time with software updates, but they are still very noticeable especially if you use other voice assistants like Alexa. First, Google Home only works with some smart devices. Right now, it’s only compatible with Nest, Philips Hue lights, and SmartThings. It does work with IFTTT protocols and recipes and you can control your TV if you have a Google Chromecast, but no other streaming media devices. Google Home also only works with 5 different music streaming services – YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, and TuneIn. You can’t connect to libraries throughout your house like you can with devices like Apple TV, but again, I think this is something that will probably be an upgrade once Home isn’t quite so new. One other very basic feature that the Home does not do is to record reminders. You can ask it to remind you to do something and it says, “Sorry, I can’t set reminders yet,” which leads me to believe it’s a forthcoming option.
For the limitations that Google Home has, it does a lot of things very right. If I had to choose between the Google Home and Alexa, I would choose the Alexa but I shop on Amazon a lot and it just benefits me more. How ever Google Home because is so much fun to use. I think that if you are integrated into Google’s ecosystem, the Home is definitely the way to go.