January 03, 2018

How a Google Home in Every Room Gives My Kids Answers All Day

Some time last year, we installed five Google Home units in our house. One was placed in the master bedroom. One each went in both our kids' rooms, as well as one in the office, and one downstairs in the kitchen. Knowing that asking Google any question was just a simple request away, I was eager to see how the family would adjust to having a friendly assistant ready at any time to go fetch answers. What I've seen is that the devices are used throughout the day, and, often, the kids talk to Google before they talk to me.

OK Google, tell me a joke.

The morning starts with Google Homes sounding the alarm to wake up.

As the kids mumble "OK Google, stop", we have momentary quiet, until they shuffle out of bed and ask Google what the weather is going to be that morning. Obviously, depending on Google's answer, this can mean wearing shorts or jeans, long sleeve shirts or short sleeves. If the answer isn't detailed enough, I've heard the kids ask a second time, asking for the high of the day, which could impact how they prepare for PE at school, or if it's going to rain, and they need to pack an umbrella.

One example from our Assistant history.

As the morning routine begins, the first person downstairs gets to be the DJ, asking Google to play a song, which serves as the background music for breakfast. If the song isn't what they wanted, they simply say, "OK Google. Next song." until one they would prefer comes on.

If it's a weekday, we're most likely off to school and work, and we're all out the door. But if not, we probably have another query to Google Home to see how bad traffic is wherever we are going, how long will it take to get there - or sometimes, how the weather will be at our destination.

When the kids get home from school, Google does more than just act as background music device. My 9 year old twins use the Google Homes to confirm math homework answers to see if they are right, or ask it to sub in if an equation is too hard, or if they are unsure of spelling. The Google Assistant is the parent who is always willing to give an answer and never gets tired. 

With the expectation that Google has all the answers, the type of questions can be fast and furious. "What is hypoglycemia?" "Are hedgehogs nocturnal?" "What state is Boston in?" "What time is it in Sydney, Australia?" "What does salutation mean?" "What day is Black Friday?" "What time is it sunset?"

If Google doesn't know, or says, "Sorry. I can't help with that yet. But I'm still learning!", it's usually followed with sighs of exasperation and amusement, as they follow on with a different query more likely to get an answer.

The most popular question asked of Google Home this last year? By far, a simple one. "What time is it?", followed by "how much time is left on the timer?" for those ever important assigned times when they need to be reading, or when kids are taking turns with a game or a device, and need to hand it off to another child.

How many more minutes are left on my timer?

As homework time wraps up, and the kids find themselves on leisure, as dinner is eaten, and things are tidied up, I can hear them play music in each room as they have access to the world's artists on demand. "OK Google, turn your volume to 50 percent." "OK Google, play Katy Perry."

Do they always get the question perfectly right? No. But the device tries its best to guess and provide the answer - or pushes for another try. "Sorry. I don't understand?" or "Try again in a few seconds."

As bedtime approaches, everyone asks Google to set an alarm for the next day to start the process anew. And yes, if you're wondering, we do disable the devices in the kids' rooms by 9 p.m., so they don't end up rocking out in the wee hours. If they want something so badly they need to ask that late, they can ask me.

Set an alarm and call it a day.

The Google Home devices were such a benefit to our house that they were the go-to gift this last Christmas. Given they were only $29 apiece on the Google Store, I maxed out the order of ten, and shipped them in many directions - to family, to friends and even to neighbors, as they too could see the benefit of a smart assistant that takes the kids' tough homework questions on without complaint, and is more than happy to let you know if it's going to rain.

Just like touchscreens and tablets were so easily made a part of our family's life, from the very first iPads, and through the Nexus line, adding voice-activated devices has been simple and the children don't find them daunting at all. After all, who wants to get a laptop out and type in a query?

Disclosures: I work at Google, obviously. I paid full retail for my devices.