I got a Home for Christmas. For those who don’t know, and are too lazy to click-through to the link, it’s a voice-recognition device from Google that sits in my living room listening to everything I say. It’s only been available for a few months, so there’s not a ton that it can do yet, but that’ll get better over time. Here are a few of my initial impressions:
- The speaker is better than I expected, completely usable for playing music. You can also tell it to play music on the Chromecast (which I have connected to my stereo speakers), but using the built-in speaker is slightly easier.
- In general it’s context-aware when you tell it to play/pause/etc, but it gets a little confused when you’re casting to multiple destinations. I was casting pictures to my TV and music to the stereo, and I had to be more explicit than I expected to make sure I was controlling the right thing. At one point it also tried to start playing music locally.
- Google Photos needs to really improve their slideshow casting capabilities. It’s cool that I can say “Hey Google, show my Christmas pictures on the TV”, but then it only showed them in reverse chronological order and didn’t seem to offer any way to shuffle them. And it stopped after (I’m guessing) 50 pictures. I’d love to have it throw up a random slideshow that plays for hours. That’s what I do with the PC hooked to the TV, but I can’t control that by voice…yet.
- Turning on/off the TV is really cool. Just before Christmas I picked up a Logitech Harmony Hub on sale, and with that plus IFTTT I was able to set up a trigger phrase with a custom response to turn the TV on and off. I need to do some more work to get it all set up exactly the way I want, but right now I can say “Turn on the TV” and Home replies with “Okey dokey, artichokey” and turns everything on. It really makes me want to invest in smart lights so I can do more.
- I wish I could start casting from Google Play Music and then connect to the queue from my phone so I could see/edit the playlist. The new(ish) casting notification that comes up is a nice touch, but it doesn’t offer enough control.
- It’s funny when my kids try to use it. When Curious George finished playing yesterday Gia yelled “GOOGLE, DO MORE!” and was bummed when it didn’t respond. It’ll be rough when she learns the trigger phrases. Hopefully by that point Google adds the ability to set up profiles so it recognizes who’s speaking.
I’d love to get more and have them around the whole house…or at least add one in my office…but they’re still a little too expensive for an impulse purchase. Maybe it’s just the charm of having a new toy to play with, but now I want to do everything by voice command.