I’ve chatted about what I want in a digital assistant before. Now Google has come out with their voice digital assistant speaker, Google Home. As a Google fan I decided to give it a try and picked one up on Black Friday for $78 (some $50s off retail). Here’s my thoughts from a few weeks of using a Google Home.
First I love the design of it. It’s simple understated design really helps it blend into my apartment. I skipped the Echo because I hate Amazon’s “appliance like product” styling. Sure they make a white one now but the Echo still looks bad. The Google Home is a far more attractive product to have in the home. I’m a fan of Google’s visual design but these new products are their best designs yet.
Voice Interaction, Part of the Future Here Today
The conversation voice interactions are very good. As a user experience, it’s easy to discover how it works and how to use it. All the commands it has just work. Given how much we use it to start timers in the kitchen, you could confuse it for a voice activated timer. It’s great to walk in, say “Hey Google, play some Christmas Jazz on the the stereo” and have it work perfectly. Oddly Cassie and I use it to play music on our stereo far more than we used to. It wasn’t obvious that it would increase our music listening but it did. I can’t wait until I can have a unit like this built into my car.
Fun Built In
Google has made a creepy-ish device as fun as possible. There are tons of Easter Eggs and games built in. It’s these little touches that help you forget it’s just microphones listening to you.
It Helps to be in the Google Ecosystem
I’m already all in on the Google ecosystem. I have multiple Chromecasts, with both my TV and my stereo hooked up. Given the relatively small launch ecosystem for the Google Home don’t even bother getting one right now. First just just start hooking up Chromecasts to everything in you house.
With the recent announcement of the Dev SDK, people can now create new ways to interact with Google Home. I expect the ecosystem will grow beyond Google quickly.
A First Step Towards a Smart Home
Starting with the Google Home I’m ready to start creating a smart home setup. Why would I wan’t to make a complex setup of smart devices? Well, my apartment is from the 1940s and its lighting options are poor. The living room has just one light switch and it controls one plug. To turn the lights on I have to walk to each lamp to turn them on. It would be great to walk in and say “Hey Google, turn the lights on” and then have light. In my case wireless bulbs would be a real tool not just a novelty. Also Cassie wants wake up lights because of the limited windows in our bedroom.
However, it’s not exactly simple to make a smart home setup right now. There are lots of products that don’t connect with each other as easy as they should. It’s just not easy to figure out what to buy. Plus there’s the addition of price, smart devices aren’t cheap. Finally you have to take into account where the market is going. “Should I get this hub or wait for the next version?” With all that, it’s clear that the smart home isn’t ready for the average consumer.
Overall, I am excited to get started, but it’s not for everyone. First if you can’t get a Google Home on sale, I’d hold off for the next six months. Just give the ecosystem some time to grow, and it’ll be worth full price. In the mean time buy some Chromecasts.
Here’s a list of things that annoy me:
It can’t set a reminder. I can set a voice reminder on my Google Pixel but I can’t on Google Home? That’s a feature that shouldn’t be missing from a product launch. I can add to my shopping list after all.
No multi account support. Cassie can’t check her calendar because it only used my account right now. In the future I’d like to see it recognize whose talking to it, and contextualize responses.
No Netflix support. I’ve tried to pause Netflix by voice without remembering that it wouldn’t work. However, at the time of this review it looks like Google is in the process of turning on Netflix support.