Many may find it weird to speak to an inanimate object, let alone have it respond back to you. But with the rise of personal artificial intelligence assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and the Google Assistant, what was once thought of as an odd habit a decade ago is slowly becoming the norm.
While the idea of speaking to someone – or something – that doesn’t exist in a physical form is alien to some, I am quite keen on exploring the possibilities of this new phenomenon, which adds more than just convenience. I can foresee it becoming a significant aspect of our lives, simplifying much more than just meagre tasks. After all, in today’s urban world, everyone would strive to achieve efficiency, and artificial intelligence might be one of the best ways to do so.
That brings me to the device in question: the Google Home. With the introduction of the Google Store in Singapore hast year, the Google Home and Google Home Mini also marked their debut on our shores.
The Google Home is a modest device – nothing about the design is meant to be flashy or artistic. It is simple, elegant, and sleek, with a white cylindrical body and a grey cloth mesh cover for the bottom half, as well as an angled top design. Even the power cable it comes with follows the grey-and-white colour palette that Google has opted to go with. It looks spectacularly clean and blends well with most modern homes and furniture.
Setting up the Google Home is extremely simple. For it to work, you’d just need a working internet connection, and a power source – pretty straightforward, actually. Additionally, should one unplug the Google Home or switch it off, it automatically reconnects to the last known network and will not reset any data once it is turned on again. This saves the trouble of setting the Google Home up all over again – a neat feature, I must add.
Google Home is Google’s answer to Apple’s Siri, a personalised digital assistant that can help you answer all your burning questions, or remind you to do. On the Google Home, you start your commands by voicing out “Hey Google” or “Okay Google”, and then you tell it what to do. Better yet, you do not need to force an English accent to get it to register commands, as it understands Singlish perfectly fine – thanks to its Natural Language Processing technology. Go ahead, ask where the nearest kopitiam (a colloquial term for coffee shops) is, or how to get to Tanah Merah via MRT, and the Google Home will be able to handle all the uniquely Singaporean terms with ease. Google Assistant will also update itself accordingly, so its core functionality will get better over time.
Voice Match will never mistake you for someone else
Google Assistant will remember your voice and another five additional ones in your home. All you need to do is set up Voice Match on the Google Home app. When you request for your favourite Spotify playlist, it’ll play just your songs, and when you make a reminder for a birthday party next week, it’ll remind you via voice recognition.
Enjoy all your favourite tunes and shows
Groove to your favourite songs, artists, playlists, and albums on various music platforms, such as Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud and more – as long as they support casting to other smart devices. If you prefer tuning in to the radio, head on over to TuneIn Radio (“Hey Google, play 987 FM on TuneIn“) to get your fix. For those who prefer the latest news, you can pick from local news providers such as Channel NewsAsia, The Straits Times, The Business Times, MONEY FM 89.3 and Business Insider Singapore. Also, if your TV has Chromecast built-in, you can cast your favourite shows on Netflix simply by asking. If none of these appeals to you, then perhaps an audiobook to lull you to sleep might be the perfect fix.
One device controls all
Use your voice to control all devices in your home, including speakers, lights, and other smart devices. You can control your lights and switches from popular home automation systems including wireless lighting system Philips Hue and Wi-Fi networking system TP-Link, allowing you to dim the lights in the living room, turn on the fan, or turn off the coffee machine.
Streamline your day
Google Assistant will tell you what you need and want to know about your day before it happens. Ask for traffic updates on the way to work, weather conditions for the evening jog, or even what your itinerary for the day looks like. You can also tell Google to remember where you last kept important articles, such as by saying “Hey Google, remember that my tickets are in the second drawer from the top.” Best of all, Google Assistant works across all platforms, so everything that you tell Google Home will also show up on your phone, for example.
Excellent audio quality
With speakers that are more focused as a digital assistant, I would expect the Google Home to sound average or middling in quality. After running it through some of my usual songs, it performed far above my expectations, and to me, it’s worthy of being a speaker on its own.
Most speakers of this size and form tend to sound overly bassy or too hollowed out. The Google Home, however, is a warm sounding speaker that has an incredibly clean emphasis on vocals, and a polite treble response. Being a smaller speaker with no dedicated sub to give that guttural rumble, it has a nice midbass hit and the sub-bass rolls off mildly. Vocals are clean and articulate, and shines for high-pitched vocals. Treble takes a step back, but the Google Home has no dedicated tweeter, so that is understandable. It features three full-range speakers that pump out powerful sound, which can satisfy many people.
The Google Home is one of those things that many people would not explicitly need, but once you have it, the Google Home can help you in more than most ways; making daily tasks and reminders much easier, as long as you’re used to vocalising to an inanimate object. It isn’t life-changing (yet!) but in time to come, I can see it being adopted in many modern households for the sheer utility it can bring to one’s life. It’s a fantastic product, and if you are big on the Android/Google ecosystem and highly invested in a smart home setup, or are keen on toying with artificial intelligence, I would highly recommend having one, or even the scaled down Google Home Mini, because, well, wouldn’t you?
The Google Home retails at S$189, and the Google Home Mini at S$79. Both are available for purchase at the Google Store Singapore, StarHub outlets, Challenger, as well as COURTS Singapore.
Photos by Soloman Soh and Darren Chiong of the DANAMIC team