Google Home at home 🏠

Voice interfaces are slowly showing up in our lives. In most cases, they replace complexity of mobile devices. But there are also new features which do make sense only when they are used just with our voice.

To see quick summary where Google is with its Google Assistant take a look at this video from last Google Developers Day (starting from 33:00):

I’ve been using my Google Home device for more than half a year now. In the same time, I also started using Google Assistant on other devices (smartphone — primarily Android Auto, rarely my smartwatch). Half a year is enough time to make a habit so wanted to evaluate how much voice interfaces impacted on my life. As a developer, I do a lot of experiments with speech control but the list below comes from my average day — I haven’t included any profession-related actions.

Google Home

Together with my future wife, we use two Google Home devices (located in living room and bedroom). So far devices are paired with my personal account. Last time when we tried to use our separate Google accounts, it wasn’t possible (I’m mostly Android user, while she uses iPhone on daily basis). Yes, Google says it’s possible but after some time of looking at iOS Home app we couldn’t make it.

List of things we do with our Google Home. “Ok Google, …”:

  • “Wake me up in 20 minutes” — really great for power naps during the day. No need to find your smartphone, launch clock app and set alarm.
  • “Set alarm for 20 minutes” — sometimes when you have a little time window and want to use it for reading your favorite book, just set alarm quickly, don’t look at your clock or mobile device and focus on it.
  • “Play music for concentration”, “Play music for dinner”, “Play music for coffee”, “Play some rock music” — if we don’t have any particular preferences it’s great to play music adjusted to your mood. Currently, we use separate Spotify account (family plan) so we don’t have to worry about playing music at home and somewhere else (office, while commuting etc.).
  • “Turn off light”, “Turn off light in bedroom”, “Dim the light in living room”, “Set light in bedroom to 10%” — our Google Home is integrated with Philips Hue lights. It’s extremely useful, especially when you are going sleep and light switch is far away from you. Voice interface is much faster than: find your mobile device, find Hue app, open settings screen for particular light…
  • “What’s in my calendar on Monday
  • “What’s the weather now/tomorrow/in {city}” — probably the most often used action in our Google Home.

Smartphone, Android Auto app

I still use my mobile device in a traditional way — no voice, just tapping. But there is one exception to this rule — Android Auto app. It’s still not available in Poland, so from time to time I need to download fresh .apk file. But it’s definitely worth doing this.

List of my commands:

  • “Show me direction home” — even if you know your city well, Google Maps is really helpful, esp. when it comes to avoiding traffic jams.
  • “Show me direction …” — I still haven’t figured out what are exact rules but as a Polish speaker sometimes it’s possible to tell command in English and address in Polish. Doesn’t always work, but sometimes can help.
  • “Call my wife” — this is a bit tricky. English isn’t my native language and most of my contacts cannot be easily spelled. But fortunately Google Assistant supports contextual memory. So when you tell it who your wife is, you will be able to call her, no matter how hard it’s to spell her name. 🙂
  • “Text my wife…” — really useful when you need to keep looking at the road.
  • Google Assistant is also able to read incoming text messages from compatible apps. Doesn’t work well with mixed language (I use English as the default language in my devices while most of my messages are Polish), but sometimes can be really helpful.

Smartwatch

I’m also Android Wear user (“old” LG Watch R). Unfortunately starting from Android Wear 2.0 Google Assistant became extremely slow (sometimes it launches ~2–3 seconds). And probably because of it, I use it very rarely.
There is only one voice command which I recall: “Remind me about {something} in {x} hours”. Really useful when you are busy and you know that in next 5 minutes you will forget about something.

And that’s all if it comes to voice interfaces. Not much, but having in mind that English isn’t my primary language, I do a lot of mistakes when speaking it and still I can use my voice to control apps and devices — it is really great!

This post was originally created for my “Write every day” challenge. So far I’m going to share only the most interesting writings here.