How useful is the Google Home? Why would you want one and what would you use it for?
Regular readers of Dadbloguk may recall that I attended one of the launch parties for the Google Home back in April. At the time I promised to write a follow up, so here it is!
As a family, we’ve become accustomed to using the Google Home and so I thought I’d explain how we use one and highlight the pros and cons.
For those unfamiliar with the Google Home, it is essentially a smart home assistant that enables you to search the web, listen to music, stream your favourite TV shows and so on. If you use a system like Nest or have smartplugs, you can also use it to control your central heating thermostat, dim the lights and turn appliances on and off.
I made a video when the home was launched. It demonstrates what the Google Home can do and you can watch by clicking on play below.
After four months of constant use, we’ve got very used to the Google Home. We don’t use Nest so some of the most advanced functions aren’t available to us, but here’s how we are using it.
Music, radio and podcasts
The Google Home sits in our kitchen It has become the de-facto stereo system for this part of the house. We use a number of different streaming music services and it’s very straightforward to ask the Home to play a particular song, album or playlist.
Being connected to the Internet, you can also ask the home to stream your favourite radio station or podcasts. The digital radio sitting in the corner of our kitchen is, I’m afraid, redundant.
YouTube, TV and films
If you have a subscription to Netflix, you can ask the Home to stream to your TV (you will need a Chromecast or similar). This particular function has impressed Mrs Adams no end! You can also stream YouTube videos.
One thing I have noticed, however, is that you must be very specific when placing your request. It’s necessary to tell the home exactly what YouTube video and which episode of a TV programme you want to watch.
Location services and travel information
The Home knows exactly where it is located. You can, therefore, ask where the closest restaurant or pub is.
On one occasion, I had to ask Google where the closest pharmacy was because I needed something for the kids. It was able to provide a comprehensive and accurate list.
Asking for a list of pharmacies that were open late at night, however, stretched things too far as it wasn’t able to help with this request. It’s a shame because such information could be incredibly useful.
The Home will provide directions if you are driving somewhere, but they are basic. That said, it is very good at providing journey times and these are very accurate.
I discovered this function entirely by accident….but it’s an impressive one. Ask the Google Home about flights between two destinations, and it will give you flight prices. You are then provided with an option to receive updates via email as flight prices change. I found this a very useful and practical function.
This is a function we use daily. You can ask the Google Home for a weather report for any location and it will provide results that are generally spot-on.
Homework and home learning
When Helen has been doing homework or Izzy has had the occasional query Mrs Adams or I can’t answer, we’ve asked Google Home. More often than not, it’s been able to provide an answer. It’s been particularly useful when needing to know how to say phrases in various languages.
How the Google Home has progressed
One of the reasons I’ve held off writing a follow up is because the Google Home is constantly being updated with new functions. When I first bought it home, it had just been launched to the UK market and it had a fraction of the capabilities it does now.
The language function, for instance, didn’t work at all well to begin with and it was incredibly difficult to get it to play YouTube videos at first. Over the past few months, such issues have all been dealt with and as a family, we consider the Google Home to be a valuable tool. This is quite a triumph as Mrs Adams is, by her nature, very suspicious of technology.
What I wish it could do
There are two things I wish the Google Home could do:
- Read my emails to me and allow to dictate emails
- Keep a to do list
- Buy basic household items and groceries
I am hopeful these functions will come on-stream in the future. Although I haven’t got in-depth experience of using rival products such as Amazon’s Alexa, I am aware there are functions Alexa has that Google Home doesn’t. The reverse is also true and what I like about the Home is that it’s backed by Google’s technology.
Privacy and voice recognition
The Google Home has a microphone on the back. It is constantly listening for the phrases Hey Google or Okay Google. At this point, coloured LEDs will light up on the top to show it is listening and you submit your request. Short, sharp requests stripped of any niceties or colloquialisms work best (sorry Google!).
You can turn the microphone off if you’d prefer. You simply press the button on the back of the device.
The Home will learn who is speaking to it. I have been asked if it will cope with accents and it deals with Mrs Adam’s Scottish accent and my English accent without any difficulties. While it will react to Helen’s voice (she is eight years of age), it will not respond to four-year-old Izzy.
When we first got the Home, however, it did react to commands issued by Izzy. I think over time it has learned she is possibly a bit young to be using this kind of technology.
If you want a Google Home…
More information about the Home can be found here. You may also want to explore the #BeMoreAtHome hashtag on social media. At the time of writing the Google Home was selling for around £129.
I was very keen to use the Home. I’m genuinely surprised how much we use it and how useful it has become, mostly to control our in-house entertainment systems. Yes, we could survive without the Google Home but we actually quite enjoy having one around!
Disclosure: I was provided with a Google Home for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions entirely my own.