Get­ting in sync

Geelong Advertiser - - YPOUR SAY - David CAIRNS david.cairns@news.com.au

THERE’S a funny story be­hind the name Google, and, yes, you can Google it.

In short, the word Google was in­spired by a mix of tech-nerd brain­storm­ing, a lit­tle word play and plain old er­ror. Be it good man­age­ment or good for­tune, it’s proved a touch of ge­nius that the world’s pre­mier search en­gine has such a fa­mil­iar, non­threat­en­ing feel.

There’s no of­fence in telling some­one to “Google it!” while “Bing it” sounds far more ag­gres­sive and “AOL it” is just ridicu­lous.

That user-friend­li­ness is even more sig­nif­i­cant now that Google has en­tered the smart home hub mar­ket with the Google Home smart speaker. This voice­ac­ti­vated per­sonal as­sis­tant has me reg­u­larly call­ing out “Hey Google” in the pri­vacy of my own home, which, to be hon­est, still feels a lit­tle odd but it’s surely nowhere near as pe­cu­liar as “Hey Duck­DuckGo”.

Quick to synch with my home wi-fi, Google Home was swiftly able to tell me the an­swer to my most press­ing ini­tial ques­tions.

“Hey Google, what time is it?” … and “Hey Google, what’s to­day’s weather?” had me armed with the an­swers in sec­onds in a new hi-tech whiz-bang way with­out that ar­chaic hassle of, say, look­ing at my watch or, heaven for­bid, look­ing out the win­dow.

Then we got more per­sonal. “Hey Google, how old am I?”

Now, I con­cede, I was dis­turbed by the an­swer on two fronts. Firstly, that Google had ac­cess to that info and, se­condly, just the brazen way it threw the an­swer at me. “Hey Google, learn to be a bit more diplo­matic next time.”

I sud­denly had a rush of con­cern. “Hey Google, where do I bank?”

Thank­fully, my new home helper had no idea … un­less she (it has a fe­male voice) was keep­ing se­crets!

“Hey Google, are you spy­ing on me?”

Google an­tic­i­pated that one and di­rected me to the pri­vacy set­tings but it was in­ter­est­ing how, within min­utes of mak­ing ac­quain­tance with a new al­l­know­ing friend, that I had that un­set­tling feel­ing that she might just know a lit­tle too much.

I quickly dis­cov­ered there are many lim­its to Google Home’s “knowl­edge” but she says fur­ther pro­gram­ming de­vel­op­ments are ex­pected.

For in­stance, she told me who coached the Cats, but added a ref­er­ence about soc­cer to prove that she didn’t know much about footy.

Google gave me an­swers for lo­cal phone num­bers and pro­vided street di­rec­tions to lo­cal places, though as a man I am pre­con­di­tioned to be scep­ti­cal of a woman’s ad­vice on such mat­ters and this might take a bit of get­ting used to.

When asked, Google did tell me the re­sults of var­i­ous sport­ing con­tests around the world and what was top­ping the ARIA charts. Play­ing mu­sic, too, from Spo­tify or YouTube Mu­sic was easy to set up.

Ask­ing Google to play a ra­dio sta­tion and to give me the news from the Gee­long Ad­ver­tiser gave me an in­di­ca­tion of the sort of daily func­tion­al­ity that might see me cre­ate a home for Google Home when I get over the nov­elty fac­tor of play­ing its two-player triv­ial pur­suit.

Set­ting the alarm was also a breeze. “Hey Google, set the alarm for 7am” … but I haven’t yet tried “Hey Google, set the alarm for 7am … and then snooze for 10 min­utes … and then snooze again for an­other 10 min­utes.”

It was sur­pris­ingly no help with the TV guide. Good­ness, does it ex­pect me to use a re­mote or some­thing! (For the record, “Hey Google, where’s the damn re­mote?” goes un­re­warded.)

You can ac­tu­ally by­pass us­ing a re­mote con­trol (they are soooo yes­ter­day) if you synch Google Home with Chrome­cast, which makes me won­der where it will all end up as there are other ap­pli­ances de­signed to be voice ac­ti­vated through Google Home.

But they are a com­mand too far for me at the mo­ment. For now, I am just get­ting to know my Google Home and tak­ing time to ex­plore and en­joy our evolv­ing re­la­tion­ship … and to get over my techno para­noia.

“Hey Google, do you like me?”

*For a lim­ited time a Google Home smart speaker (RRP $199) can be yours when you sign-up as a new

Gee­long Ad­ver­tiser 12-month dig­i­tal sub­scriber. The re­view ver­sion was pro­vided by Google.

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