We thought that it was high time we lay out some of the best tips for the Home devices, just in case you want customize your morning report, name your device, make it speak another language, or seek out some of the better Easter eggs baked directly into Google’s smart speakers. Whether you just bought a Google Home or you’re looking for new features to try out, these tips will help you get more out of your IoT buddy.
It’s interesting that the artificial intelligence (A.I.) personality that powers the Home doesn’t have a name, which seems to undermine the organic relationship between user and device Google is working so carefully to curate. Apple has Siri and the Amazon Echo has Alexa, but the engineers behind the Home and other Android-driven devices have stuck steadfastly to the generic “Google Assistant.”
You can change the name of your device in the Google Home app under Device > Settings > Name, but the name you choose will not become the new wake word. Despite vocal feedback from users, Google still only allows users to wake up the device by saying “OK, Google,” “Hey, Google,” or, oddly enough, “OK, Boo Boo.”
However, there is a way to get your assistant to call you by a different name when it responds to you. Just say “OK Google, change my name.” You might not get to address your Google Home as “Princess Fluffycakes” or “Hey, Claptrap,” but you can get it to call you by your preferred nickname; we recommend “Your Highness” for starters
USE YOUR MAD SKILLS TO AUTOMATE… EVERYTHING
There will come a day when devices like the Home will be delivered via drone, automatically crawl out of their own boxes, and thrust out a mechanical paw to introduce themselves before plugging themselves in and personalizing their functions to your home. In the meantime, it’s vital for Home power users to learn more about IFTTT.
IFTTT is what’s called an “applet creation service.” The acronym stands for its creator’s basic idea: “If This, Then That.” Basically, it’s a simple way to make your Home do cool stuff for you automatically. After downloading the app, you can create command modules that can integrate with Google Assistant apps such as Tasker and Autovoice to automate certain functions. For example, you could wake up in the morning, say “Hey, Google,” and the Home can change the color of your Hue lamps, fire up NPR, and start a pot of coffee on your behalf. You can also set it to respond to notifications, which will prompt it to alert you when that special someone emails you, track your hours in Google Calendar, and back up texts to a worksheet so you don’t lose any valuable work or personal interactions.
OR, JUST STICK TO THE BASICS
If you’re just not an applet kind of person, it’s still important to use the Home’s basic applications to make your life easier. It’s worth running down a list of the basic commands available to you upon the Home’s arrival, meaning you should ask Google Assistant questions, set alarms, connect your calendar, and carry out a host of other basic commands to better familiarize yourself with your new virtual companion.
You can also set up multiple users on your Google Assistant-powered device, like the Google Home Mini. Google Assistant can speak and understand two different languages if you want to make your Google Home bilingual. You can use interpreter mode to translate conversations in real-time. You can also use the Voice Match feature in the app and program your Home device to recognize your voice and give you tailored responses. For example, you can ask for information about your commute, and Google Assistant will recognize your voice and give you your commute information — not your partner’s.
SHOP ’TIL YOU DROP
“Ok Google, buy me flour.” One of the bigger complaints from Homeowners upon the device’s launch was that, unlike its competitor Alexa, it wouldn’t allow users to shop hands-free. That changed when Google announced that the Home will now integrate with Google Express, the company’s shopping platform. The service allows users to order from dozens of stores, including Walgreens, Whole Foods, and Costco. Users can order products just by asking, and your Home device will give users a total that includes tax and shipping before confirming the order.
Google Assistant has some cool features you can use while you’re in the car too. Want to grab a cup of coffee before work? Say, “Hey Google, how long does it take to drive to the closest Starbucks?,” and Google Maps or Waze will give your driving directions. You can also pre-order your favorite latte from Starbucks while you’re in the car without ever taking your hands off the wheel. You might even be able to reserve a parking spot using SpotHero on the go.
READ AND REPLY TO MESSAGES
It’s easy to make a call with Google Home. You just have to say: “OK Google, call (the phone number)” or “OK Google, call (company name).” One of the newer features of Google Assistant is its ability to manage your SMS messages when you text. Tell Google Assistant to “Show me my messages,” and you’ll see any unread texts. But if you ask it, “Do I have any messages?” Google Assistant will actually read your unread messages to you. The Home device can also read SMS-enabled messages from Facebook Messenger and Hangouts if you have a compatible device.
CUSTOMIZE YOUR MORNING REPORT
One of the functions that Google Home owners were quickest to embrace is the universal command “Tell me about my day,” which triggers an audio report. What some basic users haven’t realized is that the “Tell me about my day” command can be customized to offer different information. In the menu, it’s possible to select different categories, including the weather, traffic conditions, Google Calendar reminders, and even your flight status. It’s also possible to not cut off the report at the end, but instead, have the Home default to a custom news feed.