Using fancy programming, now called AI, we can now talk to a “Smart Speaker”, asking it questions to get fun and quirky answers. Is it actually worth it or just a gimmick? Read on while we discuss the Google Home Mini and where it may have a place in our lives.
There was a time before smart speakers.
This was a simpler time, before you were able to say, “Hey Google” and have a digital voice respond to your every word. Sadly, or thankfully, we’re in a time where we can ask a question anywhere in our house and have it reliably answered in a matter of seconds. Enter the Google Home Mini. To some, it’s like magic; to some it’s gimmicky; to others, it’s just their norm.
Welcome to 2018..
We’re at a day in age where you can pick up a smart speaker for under $100; hell, under $50 in some cases. To me, this is a turning point in technology where AI is passing the threshold out of Gimmick, and into an actual usable and functional state. For most people, they’re going to fall on either side of that, believing it’s still just an unneeded gimmick, or a functional item in their life. Personally, I’m still having trouble deciding which side I fall under, but let me tell you why.
I got the Google Home Mini for free. I was given Google Play Store credit with the purchase of my phone, so I decided to give it a try. When I received the package in the mail, I promptly set it up. And, just like every other overzealous tech enthusiast, the first thing I did was ask it a bunch of random questions to validate what I already knew. When that was up I kinda just walked away not knowing what else to do with it. But lets skip ahead to after the initial shock value of asking it quirky questions wore off. A few days after giving my wife a quick crash course, she started using it for music. This was the point where it just kinda dawned on me; I had just figured out where It fit into my life.
My daily routine consists of waking up with my kids, work, coming home to spend time with my kids, followed by relaxing with my wife on the couch until bed(I fit in all of this stuff in during any extra time I may be able to squeeze out of thin air). While at home with my son and daughter, we spend most of our time in or around our kitchen. Cooking, cleaning, or playing on the ground are daily occurrences. More times than not, our hands are dirty, or we are preoccupied, so hearing my wife say “Hey Google, Play the Tangled Soundtrack” followed by watching my daughter jump around in joy, just made sense.
To be completely honest, that’s where most of our usage stops, but that one simple feature that was previously handled by our cell phones had just become easy, hands free, and seamless. To me, that was the tipping point. While I know that this device has so much more to offer, we found that this one single feature, that made our lives easier, is what made the device worth it to us.
But What about everyone else?
All Google based smart speakers are built around the google assistant. If you’re already familiar with the google assistant, then you already know what this device is capable of. To one extent, that doesn’t make it actually worth it though, because if your phone can already do these things, wouldn’t a smart speaker be redundant?
Well, yes, but that’s OK. It’s OK because it serves a purpose. Tech like this is for consuming information and media. Sure you could have a conversation with your Google Home, but the end goal is to get information from the device, or in the off change you need to set an appointment, or create a note, it can do that to.
It’s paired with a relatively loud speaker(Very loud for it’s size), an array of microphones, two capacitive(through the cloth) buttons, four RGB lights, and a Microphone on/off switch. It’s an understated and simplistic, albeit modernistic design.
In terms of physical controls, tap the left or right side to change the volume level, or flip the switch on the back to turn off the internal microphones. That’s it..
The Voice controls is what matters. Picking up your voice from across the room is precise and responsive. Rarely did it miss a beat. Answers were pulled from a google search, or the built in AI/Database of selected responses.
And that’s pretty much it.
I’m still skeptical about the true functionality these types of products. I will say, that in at least one way it has made my life easier, but I guess that’s what this technology is truly about. Can you use a device like this in your every day life, and will it make your life easier? If you could and it will, then I say go for it!