Google Home ( left) and Google Home Mini
Welcome Home Google!

Voice-activated speakers  can take over your home, and how!
By Vishnu Anand
Bangalore, April 16 2018: Remember Mona Darling, Bollywood's most popular, if  IQ-challenged  secretary? Or that  more contemporary variant, Cherry from Race 2, served Anil Kapoor's unorthodox requests for exotic fruits ? Secretaries have been stereotyped by Bollywood as glam dolls or arm candy. But  things are less sexist in real life. Voice-assisted speakers are your virtual secretaries today and though they come with a female voice, they are assertive, sometimes borderline rude, but super helpful and resourceful. Often, they rub in the universal truth that no man can function in the world unless he has a strong and sensible woman directing the course of his life!

Virtual meets real
The recently launched Google Home duo of products is a perfect example to understand how virtual assistants and devices that use virtual assistants are slowly, but surely, taking over our lives, bedrooms, even kitchens. Google Assistant has been the company's biggest artificial intelligence project and with Google Home products, the virtual assistant finally finds a face (or at least a voice).  Google Home seamlessly blends into your home interior with its subtle and minimalistic design. The top white panel has LEDs that light up every time you say "OK Google". The device comes with two microphones with a technology called neural beam forming that helps recognize human voices from across the room.  The output sound comes from just one speaker,  a carefully designed one that spits out 360 degree ambient sound.

Ask me anything
Prior to its launch in India, Google has personalized the device to decipher Indian accents, sync ups with music streaming providers like Saavn and Gaana, and India-based news sources such as Aaj Tak, Dainik Bhaskar, NDTV, among others. Google   promises to bring in end-to-end support for Hindi soon. Of course, you can also ask random questions like "What's the height of Mount Everest", "Why did Chennai Super Kings shift their matches out of the city", "Will it rain tomorrow"... the possibilities are endless.
On a more serious note, the true power of Google Home is unleashed when it syncs to your Google account, and pulls out your appointments for the day, flight bookings if any, meetings, calls etc. It also reminds you of important dates such as your  birthday,  wedding anniversary, work anniversary etc. Then there are the bells and whistles like telling the device to dim or semi-dim  a smart lamp,  or turn it  on again. Other connected smart devices can be activated and controlled, which essentially means you can be sitting on your couch watching  Hotstar and turn on your bedroom AC. You can also listen to recipes in real-time and order for any veggies you may have run out of.

Taking over your lives
While all of these intelligent features truly leverage the power of AI and Internet of Things,  should we stop for a minute  to ask: Are we losing ourselves to technology?  Now, you can ask your virtual assistant  to regulate your day, get reminders on when you are meeting whom. Soon enough, your brain will minimize the ability to remember things. It is now the job of a Google, a Siri or an Alexa.  Amazon launched this trend with  the Echo smart speaker. How about burning a few more calories while you walk up to the next room and switch on the AC  manually?? Perhaps we are  becoming  dumber because there is now a machine that is  seemingly smarter than you!  
But for now, let's stick to exploiting all of the AI that is now packed into Google Home and the Google Home Mini. Available in chalk and charcoal colours, the devices are priced at Rs. 9,999 and Rs. 4,499 respectively. While both devices essentially do the same thing, the mini comes in the shape of a slightly bloated doughnut, and has a smaller speaker, ideal if you want to use it more as an assistant and less as a speaker. Go for the bigger Google Home if you need both.