The latest entry into the world of voice-activated assistants comes from a company you’ve probably heard of before: Google. The apt-titled Google Home functions in a similar way to its main competitor, the Amazon Echo, but has the added benefit of Google services such as Google Calendar and Google Keep. This enables the speaker to not only be the center of your smart home, but the center of your life.
The Amazon Echo has Alexa and Apple has Siri, but the brain behind Google Home doesn’t really have a name. Instead, the company has decided to name its AI “Google Assistant.” While the company opted for a rather mundane name, Google Assistant has plenty of tricks up its sleeves. If you just bought a Google Home, or if you’re curious about what this little device can do, here are some tips to get you started with your new smart speaker.
Get the morning report
What do you have to do today? Google Assistant knows. Simply ask Google Home to “tell me about my day” and you’ll get an audio report about future meetings, your morning commute, the weather, and any pertinent reminders you’ve set. This morning report is also easy to customize. You can choose to exclude any of the aforementioned categories, including info pertaining to your weather and morning commute, and can add items like a news report. Google Assistant also allows you to choose your preferred news sources, so you’ll only get the information that you care about. You’ll have to connect your calendar, and for now it only has the ability to share info from a single “main” calendar. That means your significant other’s events won’t get listed off, and neither will info from shared calendars.
Embrace the ecosystem
If you’re interested in Google Home, there’s a good chance that you already use several of Google’s other products. Google Home was designed to work within Google’s ecosystem, and as such, the product is most useful for people who frequently utilize services such as Google Calendar and Google Keep. With these services, Google Home can truly be your own personal assistant. You can have it check your schedule, set reminders, or add items to your shopping lists with a simple voice command.
Google Home can still be a useful tool if you don’t use the company’s other services, sure, but you won’t be using the device to its full potential.
While Google Home can’t match Alexa in terms of connected apps — at least not yet — the personal assistant does play well with a few notable services. For music, you can connect your speaker to Pandora, TuneIn, Google Music, Spotify, or YouTube. If you use any of those services, it’s a good idea to link your accounts. You can also choose your preferred music service, so when you tell Google to “play music” it will automatically start playing from your favorite music provider. Google Home also works with a few smart home products, including Google Cast, Nest, Philips Hue lights, and Smart Things.
While most of Google’s connected services deal with products inside your house, you can also connect this speaker to your Uber account.
Name your devices
Google Home is meant to be the center of your smart home life. If you have a Google Chromecast connected to your TV, for example, you’ll be able to use Google Home to play a YouTube video or a song from Pandora from your television. This isn’t too complicated if you only have one connected device, but if you have multiple gadgets connected to your Google Home, you’ll want to personalize their names. You can change the name of your Chromecast to “TV,” for instance, or “Living Room.” You’ll want to pick a name that’s easier to say than “Chromecast,” and one that helps you remember the location of your device.
Turn off the mic and get some privacy
One of the reasons why Google Home is such a useful device is that it’s always listening. You can ask it a question or issue a command at any time with nothing more than your voice. However, this feature might be a little unnerving for some people. Do you really want Google, or any other company, to listen to everything you say? It’s also possible for Google Home to butt into your conversations even if you haven’t directly addressed it. Google’s four-syllable wake phrase, “OK Google,” will probably prevent this from happening too often, but we’ve had it perk up at very strange times.
Whatever the reason, disabling the microphone on Google Home is pretty simple. There’s a “mic mute” button on the back of the device, which allows you to quickly turn the microphone on or off.
If you find that your better half gets way more use out of the Google Home than you, then you might want to bequeath the benefits, like the calendar and commute times, to them. If your account is already linked, you can do a factory reset by holding down the microphone button for about 15 seconds. That allows you to link a different Google account, until the speaker becomes smart enough to set up different user profiles.
Google bills its Google Assistant as “your own personal Google,” and you should use it as such. Think of all the ways that you use Google on a desktop. Well, you can pretty much do all of that with this speaker. Want to find the best brunch spots in Chicago? How about convert ounces to cups? Ever wonder what the capital of Finland is? While Google Home can play music, set an appointment, call a cab, or dim the lights, the heart of this speaker is its search engine.
In fact, Google Home’s search engine may even be better than its desktop counterpart. One interesting feature of the Google Assistant is that it remembers the context of your search. For instance, say you ask a question about President Barack Obama. You can ask follow-up questions using indirect terms, like the pronoun “he,” and Google Assistant will remember the topic of your question.
If you want to delete an embarrassing query from your history, you can do so in the app. Go to My Activity under the More Settings tab in the menu, and you can playback and remove your history.
The Google Home is learning all the time, so we’ll update this article as it learns more tricks.