Google Home Review
This is not a review I was expecting to write. I typically just buy Apple devices and shun the others because they're "the enemy." It's no lie that I have wanted to live in the stereotypical future scenario where robots do the menial chores and theres a computer always waiting to take your commands. I received my first taste of this back in the mid 90s when X10. They were very simple smart switches that operated over a radio frequency to a little module that was placed in the serial port of a PC. It was so cool to be able to turn lights or fans on and off with a computer! I also grew up with a calculator watch. I remember getting it when I was 6 for my birthday and it was so cool! I could perform calculations and look at my calendar from my writ! My second experience in "the future" is when I first received my PSP. It was a network ready hand held computer that could play multimedia. Then in the mid 2000s I became closer to my "future" scenario with the iPad/iPhone/Ultimate MP4 "smart"watch and mainstream wireless networking. The ability to have the internet in the palm of your hands was magical to me and I couldn't get enough of it. Later on my Mother bought me the 6th generation iPod nano and I turned that into a watch. Later on I bought a Pebble and that gave me notifications from my wrist and all sorts of networky goodness. Siri in 2011 was my first interaction with a voice command driven service that was more than just "please say a command." While limited it provided me with a natural language spoken computer platform that eventually made its way to all of Apple's devices. The platform that stands out the most for me with Siri is Apple Watch and CarPlay. The ability to have a spoken word conversation with your watch or car is another magical experience. I consider today to be the fourth wave of "the future" is with Apple's HomeKit and these new digital assistant devices. HomeKit makes home automation easy for mere mortals and allows me to simply control/manage my house from anywhere (except my Mac…)

Now to the device in question, the Google Home. For the most part I have not paid much attention to this category of device. I am not sure why because it helps complete the smart home experience. Google Home is an always on speaker that can instantly respond to voice commands. There are some other products in this category and from what I understand a friend of mine will be purchasing one of them and we'll put them to the test. Let's start off by talking about the design of the product. It has been made before that this looks like an air freshener and they're not wrong. I don't think it's a bad thing, I actually quite like the design. Its futuristic but doesn't stick out like a sore thumb. The Amazon Echo on the other hand is a tall black cylinder that has amazon branding on the front where-as the Google Home has a soft plastic top portion with a fabric mesh on the bottom. Google Home also has its branding on the back making the front of the product very clean looking. I don't want to make this review a comparison review because I have not had experience with the other products but I felt I needed to make that point. The fabric mesh on the bottom of the Home is magnetically removable and Google sells different add-ons to help you customize your Home to make it fit better in your lifestyle which I think is a great idea. I wish Google would sell Homes with different colored bases pre-installed but I happened to like the default grey one. There is only one button on the Home. Its on the back and it mutes the microphone. This is great because Google more than likely is harvesting your data and selling it. I have nothing to hide so I really don't care too much but it is a nice addition.

The rest of the interaction of Home is done through voice or through the capacitive touch surface on the top of the unit. Using Siri on iPhone was always great to me because whatever you did it would pop up the results on the screen so you could see them or modify. Google Home does not have a screen so its a completely voice driven operating system and it's so mind boggling to me. I will say that in my testing of the device, Home has been 98% accurate which is crazy for a thing that sits on the other side of a room. For when you need to make manual adjustments, you can interact with Home via the capacitive touch surface on the top of the unit. This is great for playing/pausing or changing the volume. You can also hold the top and it'll activate the Google Assistant.

Let's talk about voice and speech recognition. I have always praised Google's assistant voice for its clarity and natural feeling. I'm not sure if its from the speakers or from a software improvement but the Google Assistant voice sounds amazing. Not just good but Amazing and it makes me embarrassed to hear the Siri voice. I've even thought at times that it was just recorded lines from a voice actress but no it's all computer generated vocals. I am blown away by how it sounds! Speech recognition works great too. Google Home has 2 microphones on the top of the unit and it has heard from me from 3 rooms away through walls. It's crazy how accurate it is. It's not perfect but it's the most accurate I've ever heard. I would give it around 95% accuracy for when I give the Okay Google command and the device will start listening. There has been times where I'll say Okay Google and Home will not prompt for a command. The Google Assistant is extremely conversational. It was almost scary sad how much this sounds like a real person. At times the two of us were just in my bedroom talking and at times I thought i was on speaker phone with someone. My friends and family made fun of me before how I talked to Siri and once they find out about this they will forever make fun of me. Google Assistant is very receptive to pronouns and following a conversation which makes a product like this useable.

The main thing that attracted me to Google Home was its ability to control home automation devices. While it's VERY limited in what it can control right now, it does support the Philips Hue system which is something I really like and have been using for years. Hue works great with Apple's HomeKit and other 3rd party services and I'm happy to see it work with Google Home. A little back story on me is that I took old decommissioned iPhones and nested them in every room of my house for "Hey Siri" support. I've always wanted to be able to walk in a room and just start barking commands to turn the lights on or other various elements of my home. I really wish Google would implement HomeKit support because that would be killer for me. I don't think it would be too hard either because they would just have to read the HomeKit database that is stored on the iOS device and translate those into devices Google Assistant would understand. Still at the very least Google Home can control most of my lights. My other lights are lamps or rope lights connected to iDevices switches or iHome switches which at this time aren't supported by Google Home.

Getting into the more utility functions of Home, Google Home supports IFTTT so users are able to create custom applets to perform various tasks. This vastly expands the functionality of Google Home because now you are able to easily program in features. Some of which I will expand on later on in this review. Google Home is great at timekeeping. I am going to use this as my morning alarm to see how it fits into my lifestyle. There's nothing wrong with my current alarm system but I do like trying new things. Google Home is also great at settings timers. This is something I cannot wait to use when cooking. I like to use my Apple Watch for timers or a decommissioned iPhone with "Hey Siri" but sometimes i leave the room or take off my watch. Then I'm up a creak without my timer. Google Home will sync devices (upon request) so if I start a timer in the kitchen, my bedroom Home will alert me.

Since the backbone of Google Home is Google search, Google Assistant is fantastic at finding information. When I ask Siri to search the web, it'll display a list of web results. When I ask Google Home for web information, it'll read out the best answer! The first night I had Home I had a bloody nose (very dry where I am, nothing to be concerned about.) I did my normal routine to dealing with the bloody nose but I thought it would be funny to tell Google Home Not only did it hear me from the bathroom (where I was cleaning the blood up..) but Home started reading off steps to resolve a bloody nose from WebMD. I was amazed how good the information was, this was a very crucial part to me seeing the potential of this device. This just wasn't my new home automation toy, this was a device that could potentially save my life in a crisis situation. Aside from medical information, you can get facts, tv guide, sports, nutrition, translations, cooking and much much more. One of my personal favorite features is My Day. Home will read off your next calendar appointments, provide traffic information on how to get there and how long it'll take, your reminders and morning news. Since this is a Google product, it plays great with Google's services and that's great if you live in a Google world. I manly use Apple services so I was able to use IFTTT to allow creation of iOS reminders via the Google Assistant. This requires the IFTTT app to be open on my iPhone at all times but that doesn't bother me too much. At least it works! I had a magical experience where I was in my kitchen this morning thinking of things I needed at the store and Google Home took note and added them to my Store reminders list. Which then syncs via iCloud to all my devices.

Let's not overlook the fact that at the end of the day this is a speaker with a little robot woman inside. I wish this supported bluetooth audio streaming so I could use Apple Music or iTunes but I already had my music library in Google Play Music so it wasn't that big of an adjustment for me. My biggest gripe with the music interactions is that Google Home cannot play specific tracks from your library! I ask it to play a song and it returns "I'm sorry but I cannot find that in your library." I contacted Google support and they confirmed that was not a supported feature. That's so dumb! Other than that, you can cast music from any device and it sounds great! There's also a feature where you can simultaneously stream audio to multiple chromecast devices so since I have 2 Google Homes, I can stream music to both of them at the same time and it's so cool! It's like how iTunes works with AirPlay but sadly simultaneous streaming requires desktop iTunes and I can stream to multiple speakers via my voice. So the winner is clear for me.. For the meantime until Google releases a music update for Home, I am dealing with my music via playlists that thankfully I can request specific playlists with my voice. I can also request to play specific podcasts from the web which is really cool! I haven't figured out a way to sort my podcasts on Home yet but it's probably simple. The really cool thing is that if you have a TV with a Chromecast on it, Google Home can find a video (by you searching with your voice) and then turn on your TV and play the video. It's so cool! I just tell my house I want to watch this specific movie and it turns my TV on and plays it automatically. I've been using the term automagically to describe some of Home's functionality. At this point in time this only works with YouTube but Google has said Netflix support is coming. Speaking of YouTube, it doesn't support casting to Chromecast audio devices like Home! This is a major short coming in my opinion. Sometimes I like listening to YouTube videos and it would be nice to just cast it up to my speaker system but that isn't a feature right now. That's more of a complaint of the YouTube service instead of the Home but I felt it was necessary to mention it.

At the end of the day this is a magical device that gets me one step closer to the starship enterprise environment. Being able to just talk to my Home and have it reply is something I've wanted for years but using decommissioned iPhones was not the way to do it. Like I mentioned above, my friend and I are going to be doing a comparison piece once he gets his Echo but until then these are my thoughts on Google Home. I bought my first one at 10:30pm one night and bought a second at 8am the following day. I can see this being the future of my home.
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