Google announced a whole bunch of products this week, including two new Home speakers. But among the announcements were also a handful of new things the Home speaker is capable of doing — some of which are handy, and some of which could be pretty powerful improvements. In case you missed them, here are the highlights:
QUICKLY CONTROL YOUR HOME
You can already say “good morning” to the Google Home to get info on traffic, the weather, and the latest news. But Google is planning to amp this feature up quite a bit. It’ll let Home owners build “routines” around the “good morning” command, as well as a new “good night” command. So soon, you’ll be able to set the Home up to trigger a bunch of smart home devices when it hears those phrases — “good night,” for example, could tell the Home to arm your alarm system and turn out your lights.
These are things that were already possible using third-party services, like IFTTT, but building them into core Google commands should make it a bit easier to use and a lot more accessible. Google didn’t say exactly when this feature will come out, but one would think it’d be timed around the launch of the Home Mini in a couple weeks, or the Max in December.
MAKE ANNOUNCEMENTS THROUGHOUT YOUR HOUSE
This is among the simpler new features, but it’s also one of the more fun ones. If you have an Android phone that supports the Google Assistant, you’ll be able to tell the Assistant to “broadcast” a message, and that message will then be read aloud by every Home speaker in your house. It sounds like a helpful way to get a message across to family members and roommates, and an even better way to endlessly annoy them.
CHOOSE A NEW VOICE
Google has introduced a second voice option for the Google Assistant, which means you’ll also have a second option on the Google Home. The two options are named “Voice I” and “Voice II,” with the newer one having a male-sounding voice. Good on Google for continuing to offer the only major voice assistant that steers free of gendered names and descriptions.
SEND INFO TO YOUR PHONE
Google didn’t announce this on stage, but Android Police spotted the smart but simple new feature: the ability to send queries to your phone. Basically, after you ask the Home a question, you’ll be able to say “OK Google, send this to my phone” to have it pop up on your phone, which sounds pretty convenient. It’ll only work for specific categories of questions though, including questions related to movies, translations, news, weather, and your calendar.
FIND YOUR PHONE
Here’s another simple but practical one. You can now say, “Ok Google, find my phone,” and Google will start to ring your phone. It works on both iOS and Android, though there’s a slight advantage for Android devices here — if an iOS device is on silent, it won’t ring; but Google is able to make Android devices ring even if they’d normally be silenced.
Google is adding a bunch of what it’s calling “family fun” features, but really they’re just features designed to entertain young kids or help young kids play games. First, Google says it’s made the Home better at understanding children’s voices, and it’s adding support for supervised Google accounts, known as Family Link accounts.
The bigger addition is 50-some new games and skills meant for kids to play with. The Home will be able to offer science quizzes and trivia games, tell riddles, beatbox, and play freeze tag and musical chairs. It’ll also be able to tell stories — a mix of classic fairy tales like Snow White and some originals. Google is even partnering with Disney, among others, to get stories voiced by Mickey, Lightning McQueen, and some Star Wars characters.
Those are all supposed to roll out later this month.
TURN OFF YOUR CHROMECAST-CONNECTED TV
Here’s another one spotted by Android Police: if you have a Google Home and a Chromecast connected to your TV, you might be able to ask Google to turn your TV on and off. I say “might” because are two big caveats here — your TV has to support HDMI-CEC, which lets the Chromecast send commands to your TV over HDMI, and your Chromecast has to be plugged into a power outlet, instead of getting power from your TV set (since if the TV was powered off, the Chromecast wouldn’t work). It’s a cool feature for those who meet those requirements, but the two combined are pretty limiting.
On a related note, Android Police also found a new option in the Google Home app’s settings to let you set a default video and audio source for when you ask the device to start streaming something.
BETTER CONTROL NEST GADGETS
Google and Nest share the same parent company, so naturally the two are partnering on some deep Home integrations. That includes more phrases for controlling Nest’s thermostats — like “make it warmer” — and commands to quickly pull up Nest Cam streams. One of those is, “OK Google, show me the entryway” to have the Home pull up a specific camera’s video stream on your TV. The Home is getting a phrase to tap into Nest’s new doorbell camera, too (“show me the front door”) so that you don’t have to get up from watching TV.
CALL PEOPLE WITH YOUR OWN PHONE NUMBER
And finally, here’s a small but important update to the Home’s phone calling feature: now when you make a phone call through the Google Home, it can display your own phone number on the caller ID to whoever you’re calling. Previously, it would just display a random number, which meant a very good chance of someone not picking up. The update makes for pretty good timing, too — Amazon just added this feature to the Echo a week earlier.
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