Google Home: first impressions

It’s like talking to the radio and getting a match ❤

This is my Google Home making friends at my place

Last Black Friday I couldn’t resist the temptation to buy a Google Home, and I’m in love with it. I can justify my shopping spree by saying I am a designer and really needed to feel how it is to interact with a device only by voice. Also, I could say that it was a big deal on Black Friday. But on top of everything I was just curious about how it works.

First of all, a disclaimer: I am one of those old fashioned people who like to listen to the news on the radio. If you see me driving you might think “Is that crazy lady talking to herself?”. I have the habit to talk, and sometimes even argue with newscasters while listening to the radio.

I know a lot of people who turn on the TV when they get home just to feel less lonely. The TV noise makes the house feels like a full place. When I was single I used to turn the radio on so I could listen to some news in-between songs.

I know not everyone relates to this lifestyle. This disclaimer is a way to say that I have always been a fan of voice interaction with various devices. By the way, I am not crazy LOL. So, if you look at the big picture, I am a potential Google Home lover.

There is a rational way to explain my passion. If you turn on the TV at home just to listen to the news, you might find yourself slouching on the couch — more often than not — just to see what they are talking about. On the other hand, if you turn on the radio you will never have to stop what you are doing. You can continue focused on your main activity.

The audio might be a great partner to other activities. It can run for Best Supporting Friend on the Oscar’s of our lives.

One of the biggest advantages of a voice-interactive device is that you can leave it on all the time while you are doing something else. It’s the perfect partner while you are driving, doing the dishes, cleaning the house, brushing your teeth, dressing up or down, cooking. These activities do not demand your undivided attention, and you can perform them while talking with someone or something.

Nowadays image and sound are always together. My 3 year-old- daughter, Lara, watches a bunch of music videos on a tablet. Whenever we listen to a song she asks me “can I see it?” Because in her head music always goes with some video. And Lara is not the only one; a few kids her age ask the same thing.

Google Home arrived here only a few days ago, but it already made a difference in our lives.

What I like the most about it:

- The setup is super easy and fast. Just unbox it, plug it, get the Google Home app, sync with your Gmail account and start talking to it;
- My 3-year-old daughter, Lara, can request her favorite song ❤. It’s family friendly;
- Lara stopped asking to ‘see’ the song! Finally, she gets it! Yay! This means that she spends less time on the tablet looking like a mini sloth . Now I can see she was using the tablet like my adult friends use the TV. With a voice-interactive device, she’s now using her time at home to draw, play and even dance :)
- Every morning while I’m dressing up and preparing my daughter’s breakfast, I like to ask Google Home about:
> the weather;
> my schedule;
> the latest news;
> and ask it to play some music;

Before it existed in my life, I went through this journey in silence, talking to myself, or wasting time looking this info up on my phone.

What is getting me nuts:

- I can’t stand saying “OK, Google” every time. It’s super brainwashing! Regarding this issue, Alexa, the Amazon competitor, is friendlier.
- Google Home and Alexa work similarly. You have to say what you want in a direct way . Period! Both devices answer in a very polite way, including saying “Sorry” when they don’t have an answer. But the way we have to speak to them is so tough, especially for those who come from a Latinx background, like myself.

Once I was interacting with Alexa, and saying ‘please’ at every turn. An American friend of mine got annoyed with me and said “Stop it! She won’t get it that way. Just ask for what you want!”

It feels so strange for me to me act like this! I had such a tough time teaching my daughter to be gentle and say “please”. It looks like new forms of interaction will ruin my efforts! Oh no!!!

At first, you may think I am overreacting. Think twice. How many times did you touch something assuming it was supposed to work just because your smartphone is touchscreen?

My friend that taught me how to speak with Alexa also said something interesting. She called Alexa a ‘SHE’, not an ‘IT’! Got it? How easy is it to mix up these worlds?

As user experience designers, we should understand that every new form of interaction we create also creates a new way for people to interact with the world.

I can’t wait to see it doing:

  • calling UBER;
  • reading my e-mails;
  • writing e-mails, messages, posts…;
  • I could change its name to became more personal;
  • having a more natural conversation, so we don’t have to say ‘OK Google’ every time.

Besides the politeness thing and some bugs, it’s worth it.

But overall, it’s like talking to the radio and getting a match ❤

Thanks to Marcus Avelar, MA, for helping me edit this text.