'Home' for the Holidays

Gifts have been given and received for the 2017 holiday season, but we have a whole year of gift giving and receiving ahead of us, and have I got a gift for you!

I just received from my daughter Elissa a Google Home Assistant. Along with Amazon Echo, this is the new breed of voice-activated speakers that are the proverbial gift that keeps on giving. The more you use it, the more addicting it becomes. It’s a healthy addiction, though, in how it immediately can better organize your life and make you more efficient, saving you time and stress.

Think of it as an online search without putting your fingers on a keyboard. Your mouth is your ticket to just about any information you need, and then some.

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Similar to Amazon’s use of the code name Alexa, the phrase that activates your request to Home Assistant is “OK, Google” or “Hey, Google.” The responding voice can be set to male or female. Most of these digital doppelgangers–Alexa, Siri, Lady Gaga–are female by default, so I chose male because I’m an equal opportunity employer.

When familiarizing yourself with a newly acquired voice-activated speaker, the sensation is positively giddiness. For one, using the ultra-sensitive unit can produce comical results.

After I set up Assistant, Elissa’s boyfriend, Steve, started telling me how he asked his Assistant to drive to Carmel and suddenly my Assistant was serenading us with those same directions.

Then I asked Assistant to play the cable TV program “Hardball” and a rap song with that title by Lil’ Bow Wow started playing because I hadn’t yet linked my TV to the device.

As I prepared to write this article, I started to mentally trace the first voice commands I gave Assistant to convey to readers the experience of a new owner. I didn’t have to rack my brain much. One of the conveniences I tripped across is a “My Activity” history that transcribes to text every move you make, every breath you take, when using Home Assistant. You have a complete and automatic documentation of all your commands and the Assistant’s response.

When you think of a grocery item to add to your shopping list, just tell the Google Home Assistant and you’ll see the items in your Home dashboard on your phone while you roam the supermarket aisles.

I asked Assistant, “What is the nearest pizzeria near me?” and it shot back without hesitation, “Frankie & Augie’Z,” along with the address, distance in miles and its rating of more than four stars (out of five).

Ask it a game score of your home team, and it complies sportingly. Ask it, “What is 25 times 75?” and it quickly tells you “1,900.” Ask it in the morning to “Tell me about my day” and you’ll hear the weather, how long it will take to get to work, your schedule of appointments, any reminders you’ve entered in your calendar and the latest news from your selected sources.

Even when I messed up a voice command, Assistant set me straight and obliged. I said, “Play WCBS-FM on In Tune”–wrongly identifying a music app that I didn’t even link to the device, just to see what would happen–and Assistant dutifully replied, “All right, here’s WCBS-FM on Tune In.” You can use it also to verbally select a movie or program on an app like Netflix or HBO Now.

Both Amazon Echo and Google Home also can control home automation devices, such as lights, thermostats and security cameras.

As if all this isn’t “dope” enough (meaning very cool), I recently got a phone whose password is my mug–it unlocks when I merely look at it.

These ingenious machines are so cosmic, they may as well have been shipped from outer space. In 1982, it was “E.T., phone home.” Now, it’s “E.T., Google Home.” But I digress…

OK, Google, how do I end this article?

“Avoid phrases such as ‘In conclusion,’ ‘To sum up’ and so on…” is the actual reply I get.

OK, Google, how about I end it with…can’t make this stuff up.

Bruce “the Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or 914-275-6887.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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