Google Home in real life environments

My two new Google Home have arrived. And it’s time to try out just how good (or limited) the launch version of Google Home is.

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The set up:

1 x Google Home : in living room
1 x Google Home : in bedroom (sometimes it moves around)
1 x Nexus 6p running 7.1 dev preview, modded with Google Assistant
1 x Nexus 5 running 6

Note that this is being used outside of US. Hence certain US-based services were not available.

What’s known to work, and observations:

Single device situation:

  1. Google Home (GH) can be configured with 1 primary “linked” google account. This account is at the moment the single main account for that particular GH device. If you ask this device any account specific questions like “what’s on my calendar”, “good morning”, etc. It will answer using this account’s name and calendar info.
  2. You cannot link a second account to this device. The text label “linked account(s)” look like this will be introduced in the near future.
  3. GH voice recognition is not person-specific like your phone Google Assistant or Google Now is. There is no voice recognition training step.
  4. Remember that specific voice recognition is on-device only, it does not get transferred between your devices.
  5. Any person can talk to your GH device, including friends, kids, partner, etc. What I mean is that anybody’s OK Google will be recognized.
    1. Good: other people can try out the GH. it’s more community friendly.
    2. Bad: no distinction of personal info, this probably needs to be fixed
  6. Music account, locality account are all set as per main google account holder. If you have just one device, only one account can be set. This is definitely odd thing.
  7. Search History is saved into the history of the main account holder. This means you will accumulate a huge amount of junk queries as everyone try out the GH.
  8. Search queries are obviously almost always very very good. Assistant finds most answers and can read out longform answers from websites like recipes. That’s pretty well done.
  9. Did not test out smarthome commands as I do not have the ecosystem set up.
  10. Music controls are really basic at the moment. Anything outside the specified range of “play music”, “play x”, “next song”, “stop” will usually fail. Including really simple commands like “play something else”, “I like this song”.

Two Google Home devices

  1. So I bought two GH devices for reasons: to put one in each room, to try out dual accounts.
  2. Each GH is set up individually. They are not forcibly linked, even on the same wifi network. meaning each GH can be on separate Google Accounts. or each GH can be on the same Google Account.
  3. If separate Google Accounts:
    1. each device will answer according to it’s “owner”. as per above, all personal info, music account will be specifically linked.
    2. you can still cast music to each GH, regardless of their account, as long as it is on the same wifi network.
    3. you can still group them together inside the Home app. This allows you to cast music to both of them at the same time.
    4. If your phone is nearby a GH with the same account, it will offload responses onto the GH intelligently. If nearby GH is of a different account, it will not offload the response. I hope you understand this.
    5. Music playing is really screwy as both GH are linked to different accounts so when you talk to them, they access different music accounts.
  4. If same Google Account is used for both GH
    1. it works as you would expect. you can talk to any of the devices perfectly. your music plays perfectly.
    2. other people can still command the GH as like guests, but all info go through your account.

Other comments:

  • command pickup: pretty decent. no need to shout, but don’t speak too softly. it does not pick up whispers, ever.
  • loudness: the speakers go really really loud very fast. about 30 to 50% strength is enough. I wish it could go softer, Volume 1 is still too loud sometimes.
  • data usage: if you run it the entire day playing music, it can use quite a fair bit of data. mine can probably download like 1gb a day, perhaps.
  • touch sensitivity: bit of a lag. also wish there were other buttons on it for music controls. sometimes it’s too tiring to keep saying every little command out loud. “ok google next song” is a bit of a stretch to keep repeating.
  • As described in the above two sections, management of multiple Google accounts is a headache. Compared to phones where one phone equals one person (whether one or multiple accounts), a smarthome device has to be shared between multiple people. So we have new combinations that are very hard to manage, both for the computer and for the humans. Even as I know Google engineers and enable linking of multi accounts, it will still be a huge challenge for the user without any visual cues of which is the active account.

Imagine the combination and scenarios:

one Google Home | one user  | one google account
one Google Home | two users | one google account
one Google Home | two users | two google accounts
two Google Home | one user  | one google account
two Google Home | two users | one google account
two Google Home | two users | two google accounts

 

Best thing about Google Home so far:

It’s a very lovely music player. The convenience of having having an always-on music player, being able to just say “play music” and something decent starts playing. It’s been awesome instead of having to plug something in, turn something on, open some app and choose a playlist. I believe this is going to be the primary purpose of GH, followed by all the random search queries. In smarthome enabled households, home commands would undoubtedly be heavily used as well.

Music playing benefits heavily from having a premium music streaming service with unending songs, auto playlist, and machine learning assisted smart playlist generation.

Note: if you do not have a valid premium music subscription with Spotify or Google Play Music (or YouTube Red), you can still play music from Pandora (Free) or Google Play Music Free versions. You can only play ‘radios’, that is you cannot choose specific songs. But you will still have some form of music. You should still also be able to play your own uploaded personal Google Play Music files (in playlist form).

 

Would I recommend Google Home? Yes definitely. It works very well as a search query device, it listens well to your commands, it is a great music streamer, it’s relatively inexpensive. For all the money people throw into smartphones, this is definitely worth the money.

Google Home in real life environments

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