Google Home Rou­tines: How to put them to use

Tips for us­ing Google Home’s handy short­cut and au­to­ma­tion fea­ture.

PCWorld (USA) - - Here’s How - BY JARED NEW­MAN

Un­less you’ve dug deep into the set­tings menu for the Google Home ( go.pc­world. com/ghae), you might not know about the smart speaker’s most pow­er­ful fea­ture.

It’s called Rou­tines, and it al­lows you to ex­e­cute mul­ti­ple ac­tions with a sin­gle voice com­mand. For ex­am­ple, you can have Google As­sis­tant an­nounce the weather, a per­son­al­ized traffic re­port, and news up­dates while you get ready for work, or have it dim your smart light bulbs and play some re­lax­ing mu­sic a few min­utes be­fore bed­time. These rou­tines even work with the Google As­sis­tant app on IOS and An­droid— no smart speaker re­quired.

You can also schedule Rou­tines to run at spe­cific times with­out voice com­mands, ef­fec­tively turn­ing a Google Home speaker

into a high-tech alarm clock that can wake you up with mu­sic, in­for­ma­tion, and smart home au­toma­tions.

Here’s how to get started with the Google Home’s Rou­tines, and how to make the most of them:

GOOGLE HOME ROU­TINE BA­SICS

To start build­ing Rou­tines, open the Google Home app for An­droid ( go.pc­world.com/ ghan) or IOS ( go.pc­world.com/ghis), press the menu but­ton in the top-left cor­ner, and then select More Set­tings. Now scroll down to the Ser­vices sec­tion, and select Rou­tines.

Within this menu, you’ll see sev­eral ready-made Rou­tines for things like leav­ing the house, com­mut­ing home, and go­ing to bed. Tap on any of these Rou­tines to mod­ify them, or hit the + but­ton to build a Rou­tine from scratch.

Each Rou­tine must be trig­ger­able by at least one voice com­mand, and ready-made rou­tines come with de­fault com­mands that you can’t re­move. The phrase “Let’s go to work,” for in­stance, is al­ways as­so­ci­ated with the Com­mut­ing To Work Rou­tine, and “Good night” is al­ways as­so­ci­ated with the Bed­time Rou­tine.

You can, how­ever, add more trig­ger phrases to each Rou­tine. Un­der the When or When I Say sec­tion, tap the ar­row key, then tap the + but­ton on the next screen. Type in what­ever trig­ger phrase you’d like to use, then hit OK. For cus­tom Rou­tines, you can also spec­ify a day of the week and a time for the event to oc­cur au­to­mat­i­cally.

To change what ac­tu­ally hap­pens when you ut­ter a trig­ger phrase, look through the My As­sis­tant Should” sec­tion and check off any ac­tions you want to per­form. You can also tap the gear icon to mod­ify those ac­tions fur­ther. For in­stance, tap­ping the gear next to “Tell me about my com­mute to work” lets you

spec­ify a home and work ad­dress, and tap­ping the gear next to Ad­just Lights, Plugs, and More lets you set up con­trols for any smart home de­vices you’ve con­nected to the Google Home ( go.pc­world.com/smdv).

Want to add an ac­tion that’s not on the list? Select Add Ac­tion at the bot­tom, then type in what­ever voice com­mand you’d like Google As­sis­tant to process. For ex­am­ple, you can get the score of your fa­vorite sports team (“Tell me about [team name]” works best for this), ask for a mo­ti­va­tional quote, broad­cast a mes­sage to all Google Home speak­ers in the house, or start play­ing the news on a nearby Chrome­cast ( go.pc­world. com/chst).

Keep in mind that Google As­sis­tant will ex­e­cute rou­tines in the or­der that they ap­pear in the My As­sis­tant Should sec­tion. To re­ar­range them, hit Change Or­der at the top of the list, then hold and drag an item to move it around.

Fi­nally, Google As­sis­tant can cap off a rou­tine with mu­sic, news, ra­dio, a pod­cast, or an au­dio­book. Just select the type of au­dio you want, and hit the gear icon to fine-tune what plays.

When you’re fin­ished cre­at­ing a Rou­tine, make sure to hit the check mark in the top-right cor­ner to save it.

THINGS TO TRY

What are Rou­tines good for? Here are some ideas:

• Cre­ate a week­day alarm that turns on the bed­room lights, briefs you on the weather and your agenda, then starts play­ing the news or some mu­sic. (For a gen­tler wake-up, cre­ate a sep­a­rate Rou­tine, 10 min­utes be­fore your main one, that stirs you from slum­ber with some re­lax­ing sounds.)

• Use Rou­tines as short­hand for oth­er­wise wordy com­mands. For in­stance: “I’m cold” in­stead of “In­crease the ther­mo­stat by two de­grees,” or “Drop the

beat” in­stead of “Lis­ten to Thumbprint Ra­dio on Pan­dora.”

• Use the Leav­ing Home Rou­tine to check on your com­mute; play a pod­cast; and make sure the lights are off, doors are locked, and ther­mo­stat is turned down (or up) for the day.

• Cre­ate a “chill-out” Rou­tine that throws a re­lax­ing Youtube video onto the TV via Chrome­cast (such as an aquar­ium [ go. pc­world.com/aqrm] or a crack­ling fire­place [ go.pc­world.com/frpl]), mutes the Chrome­cast, loads some re­lax­ing mu­sic on the Google Home, and dims any nearby lights.

• Cre­ate a “workout” Rou­tine that pumps some en­er­giz­ing mu­sic from the speaker and loads your fa­vorite ex­er­cise video on Youtube via Chrome­cast.

• Build a “help me focus” Rou­tine that en­ables your An­droid phone’s Do Not Dis­turb mode and plays white noise on your of­fice speaker.

IS­SUES AND WORKAROUNDS

While the Rou­tine setup process is fairly straight­for­ward, it does have some quirks that you might need to deal with. Some ex­am­ples:

Is­sue: With mu­sic play­back, for in­stance, the And Then Play option only works with your de­fault mu­sic ser­vice, and at least with Google Play Mu­sic, it’s un­able to shuf­fle playlists. That means you’ll hear the same song ev­ery time dur­ing your morn­ing or evening Rou­tine.

Workaround: To cor­rect this baf­fling over­sight, use the Add Ac­tion fea­ture to play mu­sic in­stead of the And Then Play option. From here, you can have Google As­sis­tant play mu­sic from any ser­vice and ask it to shuf­fle a playlist. Just make sure this ac­tion ap­pears at the bot­tom of the or­der.

Is­sue: Some smart home con­trols—such as dim­ming the lights to a spe­cific per­cent­age—aren’t avail­able through Google’s ready-made rou­tines.

Workaround: Again, you’ll have to type in the com­mand man­u­ally through the Add Ac­tion fea­ture.

Is­sue: There’s no option to schedule ready-made Rou­tines.

Workaround: An­noy­ing as it is, you’ll just have to cre­ate a new rou­tine from scratch. Af­ter do­ing so, you’ll see a Set A Time And Day option un­der the When sec­tion, where you can set up re­cur­ring events that trig­ger on a spe­cific speaker.

Is­sue: You can’t trig­ger Rou­tines with mo­tion sen­sors, lo­ca­tion, or other con­tex­tual events.

Workaround: Un­for­tu­nately, there’s no way around this lim­i­ta­tion at the mo­ment.

But given that Ama­zon’s ri­val Alexa as­sis­tant can trig­ger Rou­tines on Echo de­vices based on smart home events, hope­fully it won’t be long be­fore Google re­sponds.

Sev­eral ready-made rou­tines are avail­able, and you can mod­ify them.

Cre­ate a week­day rou­tine.

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