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Google Home app, configure all your google devices

The Google Home App

Google Home app is the one application to manage all of your Google devices in your home. Once called Google Cast, now aptly named Google Home, it is the control point for the Google Home speaker and Chromecast devices and functionality. The Google Home app is also where you will find your settings and customization.

As with a lot of home products, the application can make or break the experience. Google home is a great app.  Once I had the Google Home speaker setup, and voice control was in the mix, I didn’t need to use the app much.  You can control most things by voice. If you do want to customize a setting or change a news source, the app is where you will do it.

Google Home App, three tabs watch, listen and Discover

The watch tab of the Google Home app lets you choose content to view on your Chromecast devices.

When you open the Google Home app, you see its laid out into three tabs. Watch, Listen and Discover. The Watch tab, that offers suggestions on what to watch, via Netflix,  YouTube and other streaming services.  Yes, they are not just clever names but very descriptive as well.  As you can see in the screen shot, you can even open the Youtube and Netflix apps from within the Google Home app.

The Listen tab, will link you to your music options and apps that you have installed on your device. I had selections from Google Play music and IHeartRadio at the top of the screen.

As I scrolled down, I was also able to select other apps that I had installed on my phone. Pandora, and others are listed below. The Google Home app loads the media apps you use and displays the most recently used apps first.

The Third tab, is the Discover tab.  This is a very useful section as you are trying to figure out just how much you can do on your Google Home speaker.

The Discover tab segments your devices by type. There is a Google Home section, Chromecast and TV’s section, then there is a Chromecast audio and speakers section. There were many statements about Chromecast inside, I am sure we will see even more TV’s and speakers with this as the trend grows.

Sections can be expanded or contracted. Relevant content is displayed when they are expanded.  The Google Home section which is at the top, offers all kinds of insight. Home control is the first option.  Below that you find items like “Enjoy relaxing sounds, and Shop everyday essentials.

The format is just like Google Now cards. If you have not used Google now, its a simple layout where each item is in its own square that is referred to as a card.  Each square has sample commands to use with the Google Home speaker.  For example, “play forest sounds” is listed on the Enjoy and Relaxing Sounds card. There are also commands like, listen to a thunderstorm and stream sounds.

I have included screen shots of the Google App in the Picture viewer below. Take a quick browse through the screen shots if you would like to see whats in the app.  As you will see, there is a lot. Home Control, settings, preferences, and more.

Google Home is ready for action once you set it up. After you go through the Google Home app, the responses it will deliver will be even more customized.

The Google Assistant voice is very smooth and much more conversation like than other assistants I have used.

To get the process started you do have 2 choices, you can use the start phrase, “OK Google”.  You can also use the phrase ” Hey Google” to start the commands.

There are so many things you can ask. Google Home does a great job with the responses. While others may just offer an OK. Google Home provides a more conversation like answer.

For example when I make the request, “Hey Google, turn on the front porch light.”  The Google Assistant will answer with,” Ok turning on the front porch light”.

If I make the request, “Ok Google, how is traffic?” , Google Home will reply,” I heard how was traffic, but I can’t tell you unless you specify a destination.”   If I clarify the request and say, ” Hey Google, how is traffic to work?”. The Google assistant will tell me its light, and give me the approximate time it will take by car.

I did ask the Google Home speaker to navigate to work.  The Google assistant informed me she doesn’t support navigation yet, but its 13 minutes to work with light traffic.

I was surprised when I asked,”Hey Google, whats in a french 76?” The reply was, according to Wikipedia, the French 75 is made with Champagne, cognac , lemon juice and sugar, however gin has come to replace cognac.  I always get the name of that drink wrong. I was surprised with Google was able to provide results even with me being off a year.

When Google Home is asked, “whats your favorite drink?” the clever response is, ” I have a thirst for knowledge.”

You can move beyond the normal voice commands. In the Google Home app, if you navigate into the More settings selection. You will find a small selection labelled services. While other assistants have skills, Google home has services. Which are very different. You don’t install them, or enable them you just talk to them.

I don’t want to take away from all the functionality in Google Home.  I have found very little use for the services in day to day use.  This is where you will find the ability to order Dominoes pizza, Uber and so many other services.

You can also talk to a fortune teller, weatherman Joe and others.   I am not sure who weather man Joe is, but he didn’t have a forecast for any locations I was interested in.

Privacy- Is Google home always listening?

Privacy is a growing concern as we fill our homes with products that are always listening and we all walk around with phones and tablets eagerly waiting for voice commands.

The trigger words don’t make much difference, “Hey Siri, Alexa, or OK Google.”  We are all somewhat concerned about what information is being beamed to the cloud and stored with our names on it.

I did some digging on the Google Home site to determine exactly what Google Home is up to.  The first thing up for discussion, How does Google Home get information? The main source of data is your personal preferences and other information you configure in the Google Home application.  If you use the Google Assistant on your phone, those questions and actions will be compiled and sorted as will your search history. Of course, this only happens with your permission.

As our hardware becomes smarter and more connected in the IOT, it will require all of us to pay more attention as we click through the EULA of new applications and features.

Google Home does a great job of putting together answers for you. It does this using all of your search history and previous questions and conversations. It learns your work, gym and other locations. Especially if you use other features in Google maps and other pieces of software that identifies them.

If you would like to clear this information, you can do a quick search on deleting my Google activity.  You can clear your history, and even disable future recording.  Be warned! If you decide to disable future conversation recording, Google Home and Google Assistants will no longer function.

You can periodically go in and delete your history.  Once you clear your Google activity history, there is no other record. Google does keep service related records about your account, like which products you used and when. This is to prevent spam and abuse.  Improving the services is always a goal too.

There is also the suspicion that Google Home is always listening. This holds true for all voice activated assistants. We all want to have our privacy.  Google Home listens in short snippets for the hotword.  Which is the same as a wakeword for other personal assistants.  If the hotword is not detected, the snippets are deleted. None of the information leaves your device until the hotword is heard.  When the hotword is heard, which is “Ok Google”, or ” Hey Google,” The lights on the top of Google home will light up and begin their colorful circle. That signifies that Google Home is recording. These recordings are sent to Google to process your request and deliver accurate answers.

If you would like to reduce your Google footprint. You can delete these recordings through my activity anytime you wish.

I have covered a fair amount in this review already.  Yet, I am just getting started. On the next page I will go into Google Home and how it works in my smart home. How it was setup, the products I use and the results I got.  I will also go through some really surprising features with other Google Products.  Make sure and check out the rest of the review.

Next Page :: Google Home – the voice of your smart home
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