I’ve always been a bit of a geek when it comes to gadgets. I was therefore delighted to be invited to the launch of Google Home recently. It was great to see the new device at close quarters and witness what it is capable of.
The following week, I visited Google’s UK HQ to have a go myself and bring one home to test. Since then, I’ve been using it around the house. Here’s a quick overview of what it is and what it can do.
What is Google Home?
In short, Google Home is a voice-operated smart speaker. With the power of the world’s biggest search engine behind it, of course, it’s a talking encyclopedia ready to provide answers to innumerable questions. It also uses Google’s pre-existing Assistant app to help with all kinds of tasks. For example, I’ve been using it as a calendar and shopping list.
It’s speaker – or speakers, I should say as there are three of them – is nice and clear and the microphone is clearly good too. It understands questions that the kids have excitedly blurted out. I’ve also tried asking it things in different accents and it gave relevant answers.
What else can it do?
Among other things, Google Home can be used alongside other selected devices. Completely fortuitously, we chose a Nest thermostat when we recently had work done on the house. It can be paired with Google Home so I can now change the temperature in the house without lifting a finger. It can also be used to control compatible lighting and smart plugs.
The device is also ideal for entertainment. It can also be used to stream services like Netflix via a Chromecast and also deployed as a digital radio. In addition, it can tell jokes, play games, ask riddles, share interesting facts and play animal noises. All of these are especially useful when the kids are bored!
Knowing that Google likes an Easter egg or two – if you haven’t typed ‘do a barrel roll’ into the search bar, you haven’t lived – I was hoping there would be some here. I wasn’t disappointed. After asking it a series of sensible questions, I tried a few silly ones. “What is the air speed velocity of a laden swallow?” prompted the response “African or European?” Touché, Google.
Delighted at the Monty Python reference and hoping for a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy one too, I asked it what the meaning of life was. A long-winded, scholarly response followed. And was suffixed with: “Also, 42.” Awesome!
In addition it spoke some Cockney rhyming slang when asked and provided its take on the question of the wood-chucking prowess of a woodchuck.
Google Home is a brilliant and incredibly versatile bit of kit and I have already found several uses for it. From keeping up to date with the national news and local weather to checking recipes and setting timers while cooking without getting my phone covered in food.
It has also been useful when doing my accounts and comes in handy with research for the kids’ homework.
As you would expect with new technology, Google Home is still effectively a work in progress. It may not be able to answer every question you ask it, but will update itself and increase its capabilities.
That said, I’m already very impressed by Google Home and look forward to seeing further improvements.
Disclosure: I was gifted a Google Home device.