Reviewing Google Home – what a digital assistant can do for you

Typing is for chumps.

Savvy techies today are talking to their devices, using their voices to interact with technology, rather than typing commands into a web browser online. You’ll see it in a series of new smart home digital assistants; Amazon’s Echo (not yet available in Canada) Apple’s soon-to-be-revealed Home, and of course Google’s Home device is now available in Canada.

What is Google Home?

Google Home is a voice-activated speaker that’s able to provide hands-free help from
the Google Assistant. You can ask it questions, or get it to do things for you just by starting your instructions with “Ok Google”.

The device is a small slightly tapered cylinder with a flat angled top. Hidden in that top are two small microphones which are always listening for you to call it into action.

Many controls, no buttons

The flat top also hides a small coloured LED light display which shows when the device is working or responds when you are using the touch pad which is also embedded in that flat top to turn up the volume for example. I really like the fact there that there are a whole host of controls hidden in the device yet not a single button that’s visible.

Customize Google Home

You can also get custom coloured bases to match your taste and decor. While a gray-ish coloured base and white top worked just fine for my mid century modern aesthetic, there are many other fun options available which I’d look at also.

What can Google Home do?

There’s an ever growing list of what Google Home can do:

Play music from popular music services by artist, song, genre, album, playlist, mood, or activity
Get the latest news
Listen to popular podcasts; just ask for the one you want
Listen to radio stations
Control TVs and speakers

Ask for traffic and travel times
Ask for current weather or forecasts
Get your schedule for the day from Google Calendar
Get status updates on your upcoming flight
Set, pause, check, resume, and cancel timers and alarms
Add items to your Shopping list and check what’s already on it
Ask about current individual stock prices or current points of an index, like NASDAQ
Ask for sorts scores, live updates, or next game date, location, and time
Perform complicated calculations
Get translations for words or phrases in supported languages
Get unit & measurement conversions
Get nutrition information for ingredients or food
Get definitions and spellings for words

Control your home
Control your thermostats — Control the temperature with supported smart thermostats
Control your lights — Turn on/off, dim, and check if lights are on with supported smart bulbs
Control your plugs — Turn on/off devices around your home with supported smart plugs

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