Google Home Now Controls YouTube TV

Three months now with YouTube TV as my main source of living room media consumption and I can honestly report that I do not miss my cable provider one bit. For those of you unfamiliar, YouTube Tv is Google’s take on the cord-cutting movement that includes companies like Sling, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now and more recently Hulu Live TV.

In select markets, YouTube TV offers a fairly robust channel lineup including your local stations, which is something lacking from some of the other popular services. For me, the mixture of sports, networks and kid-friendly programming was more than enough to make the switch and it cut my cable bill in half.

Along with a good channel lineup, YouTube TV offers unlimited, cloud-based DVR storage to record all your favorite shows. All of this for only $35 is a deal that’s tough to beat.

YoutTube TV is pretty great and thanks to the Google Assistant it just got a little better. If you have a Google Home, Home Mini or have ordered the upcoming Google Home Maxx, you can now control YouTube TV with just your voice.

As with many other streaming services, YouTube TV can now be beckoned using your Google Home speaker to cast to Chromecast-enabled devices in your home. Check out a few examples of commands you can use.

  • Play “This Is Us”
  • Play the MLB game
  • Play MSNBC
  • Play the latest episode of “Grey’s Anatomy”
  • Play last week’s “NCIS”
  • Record “Empire”
  • Play, pause, stop, rewind 15 seconds, turn captions on, or fast forward two minutes

Shop Chromebooks On Amazon

In the smart-home department, Google is certainly gaining a lot of ground. Between the Home line of products, Chromecast and the ever-growing list of third-party apps and hardware, there is little you can’t control around the house.

This got me thinking. Will you be able to control YouTube TV with speakers like the newly launched TicHome Mini from MobVoi? With most of the features of the Google Home and the Assistant baked right in, I presumed it should but I wanted to know for sure.

So, I asked. 

A pleasant chat with Google Home’s 24/7 support team offered up the answer I was looking for. Currently, there is no support for this function on third-party speakers with Google Assistant. The representative forwarded my inquiry to the engineering department to see if this was something that may be added in the future and I was assured I would be alerted if and when that happened.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to tell my Home Mini to change the channel. Happy streaming.
Source: The Keyword

My First Week with Google Home Mini: More Frustrating Than Fun

My experience and feelings about voice assistants are pretty mixed. I’ve asked Siri lots of questions over the years, but its reliability is so shoddy that I largely ignore its existence. I’m not an Amazon lover or Prime member either, so Alexa and its devices were never of much interest to me.

However, the promise of doughnuts — with a free Google Home Mini — was enough to get me to wait on line at one of the company’s promotional Donut Shop pop-up stores. At $49, the Home Mini is impulse-buy cheap, but I needed an even sweeter price to consider building out a smarter home.

After spending a week with Google Home Mini, here are my impressions.

It sits where it won’t worry anyone

I set my charcoal-grey Home Mini up on the dresser next to my bed because my roommates don’t feel comfortable with the speaker in a common space. I can’t blame them, as the Home Mini already hit its first privacy controversy, for constantly eavesdropping. That pushed Google to disable the ability to activate the Mini by tapping its top.

When I asked Google Home Mini how my day looked, the thing just wouldn’t shut up.

But as I plugged in the Mini’s power cord, I laughed at its mute switch, the toggle that disables its microphone. Why did Google put this thing on the backside of the puck, near the power cord? That’s the most inconvenient place you could put it, aside from under the device.

In my first week, I didn’t once make the effort to toggle this privacy switch, and I doubt that I — or anyone else — will. It feels purely like window dressing to assuage privacy-minded users, as I’d guess that most Google users who would use a smart speaker have already accepted that the search giant will know everything about them.

Talking to Home Mini

The thought of spending my day talking to a disembodied voice was a large part of why I waited this long to try out a smart speaker. So, when I followed one of the prompts that came with the speaker, to ask Google how my day looks, I recoiled at its response.

The thing just wouldn’t shut up, rattling off my local forecast, my first appointment and even playing the news from NPR. I would have heard even more if I had reminders or upcoming flights in my Google calendar, or had I asked on a workday when it could tell me about my commute. Fortunately, it gets this verbose only when you ask about your day, which I don’t believe I will do again, as I’ll instead just ask for specific things.

Even when I got the Home Mini to send a series of commands to the Harmony — wherein I just wanted it to turn on the USA Network — I saw mixed results.

Looking at the other commands that the Google Home app suggests to ask, I found some that would prove valuable — hands-free calling and asking for the news — and others that don’t apply well to my life. While I understand that knowing traffic conditions is valuable to those with cars, I couldn’t care less, as I rely on New York’s subway-transit system. While the Mini also offers transit estimations, I’ve already memorized every route I use and didn’t need to ask.

Yes, the speaker is a resource for an abundance of answers to trivia questions, but I’m still trained to type these things out by hand. It’s not just about muscle memory either, because thanks to copy and paste and email, I can do more with that information if I look it up on my smartphone or laptop, using Google by hand.

My fledgling smart home

When I brought the Mini Home into my home, I realized how ill-prepared I was for this new member of the digital family. I’ve never owned a piece of smart home gear before, so I borrowed an iDevices Socket bulb and a Harmony Hub to test.

My first night spent with these devices was filled with the headaches of setting the gear up. I started with the Socket bulb, because I thought it would be simpler, but it wasn’t.

For starters, I couldn’t command Google to turn on the light, but the situation improved when I screwed the bulb in tighter — it was already pretty snug — which fixed the issue. Even more frustratingly, though, the Socket’s colored night-light seems to be controlled only by Siri, and not Google Assistant. I did find one perk of the Socket light: It gave me the option to dim the bulb halfway, for when I didn’t need as much brightness.

Things got worse when I tried to use the Harmony Hub, which supports the Google Assistant and my cable box and TV. Pairing everything and getting started was a breeze, but doing anything with it all made me want to punt the Hub off my fire escape, when I thought every command had to start with “Hey, Google, ask Harmony to …” which felt like doing twice the work.

I kept trying to train the Hub to turn both the TV and cable box on and move to a specific channel, but it wouldn’t recognize my commands. Then, I realized that the Google Assistant lets you create shortcuts so you don’t need to say, “ask Harmony,” every time. And Harmony allows for something called Friendly commands for making sure your custom, multistep Activity commands have an easy spoken trigger.

Annoyingly, it seems the window for Friendly command setup is meant to be accessed only when originally pairing your device, as I had to unpair my Home Mini from my Harmony to get back to that window.

But even when I got the Home Mini to send a series of commands to the Harmony — wherein I just wanted it to turn on the USA Network — I saw mixed results. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes the Home Mini just spoke as if it were performing the commands, but I saw no results.

Multiple virtual DJs

The first questions I asked my Home Mini were about music, commanding the device to play songs from Google Music and Spotify. For its size and price ($50), the Google Mini produces decent-sounding audio, with enough bass and clarity to fill my bedroom without distortion.

Its ability to process natural language is respectable. When I said, “Hey, Google, play St. Vincent’s latest song,” it pulled up “Los Ageless,” (the correct answer). When I asked the device to play Kanye West’s best album — a trick question and something of an internet meme — it played a greatest hits album from Mr. West (though the answer is 808’s & Heartbreak).

MORE: What’s the Best Music Service for You?

I found another quirk while trying to call up the song “Keep It 100” by Grandtheft & Keys N Krates. Spotify, my original choice for the default player, refused to pull up the original version, instead playing a remix.

My favorite use of the Home Mini so far is to play the latest episodes of my favorite podcasts.

Interestingly enough, the Home Mini pulled up the right song when I said, “Play ‘Keep It 100’ from Google Play Music.” And since that’s a mouthful, I changed the default music app to Google Play Music.

Also, Spotify played my Spotify Time Capsule playlist (which it generates for every user) only when I asked for it by its official name, “Your Time Capsule playlist,” and not by “My Time Capsule playlist.”

My favorite use of the Home Mini so far, though, is to play the latest episodes of my favorite podcasts. The device speedily streamed the latest episodes of Desus & Mero’s Bodega Boys show and David Shoemaker’s The Masked Man podcast. While I had trouble getting the Google Mini to load other shows, such as Not Your Demographic, that issue fixed itself once I simply added “podcast” to the end of my “play the latest episode of …” request.

Features that need to grow

While I was excited to ask my Google Home Mini to help me find my iPhone, I found out that this feature doesn’t work as perfectly as I wanted. Sure, you can have the speaker send a ringtone to an iPhone — to show you that you yet again lost your handset in the sofa — you don’t hear anything if the phone’s on silent.

I found another mixed blessing in the Google Home Mini’s alarm-clock tool, which was easy to set up, which I did by simply saying, “Set an alarm for 5:55 a.m. on Monday through Friday.” And while this alarm did the job of waking me up for work, I hit a wall when asking it to change the alarm tone. I wanted to use a unique song, and not some generic melody, which Google Home Mini told me it cannot do.

The alarm clock dipped in its value during my testing, as Google disabled the tap-to-stop function. Google had kept that function even in the first days after the company disabled the top sensor’s other functionality.

Outlook

As I waited at the Home Mini Donut Shop, I thought about how clever it is for Google to point out how this smart speaker is shaped like a doughnut. By highlighting the device’s tiny size and comparing it to one of America’s most beloved baked goods, Google may convince this sweets-loving country not to view the always-listening puck as a creepy proposition. Also, while I — and many others — pay for doughnuts all the time, I’ve never thought about dropping dough on a smart speaker.

Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's GuideCredit: Shaun Lucas/Tom’s Guide

I’m not in love with my Google Home Mini, but I’m not kicking it out of the bedroom either. As for how long it stays plugged in, I’m not sure. Its tenure as my alarm clock might end soon if I keep having to yell at it in the morning. But unless I can find more ways to use this speaker, the odds of it moving to the shelf that holds my very rarely used Snapchat Spectacles will rise. I’ll report back in a month to let you know where my Google Home Mini ends up.

Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom’s Guide

Google Home Mini vs. Amazon Echo Dot

Ever since Amazon (AMZN) created the Amazon Echo, the “Siri for the home” voice assistant, every company and its brother has rushed to come up with one almost exactly like it.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Take, for example, the Amazon Echo Dot. Like the full-size Echo, it responds to your commands and questions from across the room—but it’s a tiny, sawed-off one that costs $50. The only difference is that because you don’t have the big cylinder, the sound quality is tinny. It makes a fantastic second Echo—say, for the upstairs.” data-reactid=”16″>Take, for example, the Amazon Echo Dot. Like the full-size Echo, it responds to your commands and questions from across the room—but it’s a tiny, sawed-off one that costs $50. The only difference is that because you don’t have the big cylinder, the sound quality is tinny. It makes a fantastic second Echo—say, for the upstairs.

Well, now here’s Google (GOOG, GOOGL) with its own version of the Dot, called the Google Home Mini. Also puck-shaped, also $50. (Google will also be releasing the Google Home Max, a beefier version with better sound.)

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The Dot and the Mini are 90% identical. They both work great. Each has a Microphone Off switch, so you can be sure that it’s not listening for its trigger word. Both can now distinguish who is making the request, so that it can respond to commands like “Play my party playlist” and “What’s next on my calendar?” with the right person’s music or info. Both now let you make free speakerphone calls to actual phone numbers (although the Google’s call quality is awful).” data-reactid=”34″>The Dot and the Mini are 90% identical. They both work great. Each has a Microphone Off switch, so you can be sure that it’s not listening for its trigger word. Both can now distinguish who is making the request, so that it can respond to commands like “Play my party playlist” and “What’s next on my calendar?” with the right person’s music or info. Both now let you make free speakerphone calls to actual phone numbers (although the Google’s call quality is awful).

There are, however, a few differences to note.

In this corner: The Google Home Mini.

  • The sound is much better. Neither assistant pod will be mistaken for a concert hall. But there’s no question that Google’s built-in speaker is richer than Amazon’s.
  • It talks to Chromecasts and Android TVs. If you spring $35 for a Chromecast (a little receiver stick that plugs into a modern TV’s USB jack), or if you have a TV that runs Android TV, you can perform a nifty trick. You can say, “Ok Google, show me a video about how to remove contact lenses” or “Show me funny cat videos” or “Show me the trailer for the new Avengers movie,” and it appears on your TV instantly. As you can see in the video above, it’s quite magical.
  • It will someday have a tap-to-talk feature. The top of the Mini is supposed to be touch sensitive. As designed, you could tap it to issue a command (instead of saying “OK Google”), or tap it to pause music. But just as the Home Mini was shipping, a reviewer discovered a bug in which that button thought that it was being pressed all the time, transmitting everything anyone said in the room to Google’s servers. So Google responded by shutting off that top button’s features altogether.

And now, in this corner: The Amazon Echo Dot.

  • Works with more home-automation products, like internet-controlled thermostats, lights, security cameras, and so on. It’s a huge list. Google’s improving on this front, but Amazon’s had a several-year head start.
  • It has an audio output jack. Lots of people love plugging in their nice speakers or sound systems to an Echo Dot, thanks to the standard miniplug on the side (the Google offers nothing similar). That makes it easy to control your music by voice—one of the most luxurious features ever.
  • The volume controls are much better. The Echo Dot has a smoothly turning volume ring on the top. On the Google Mini, you have to repeatedly tap one side to raise the volume, the opposite edge to lower it. There are only 4 LED light segments to tell you what the current volume level is (rather than the far more informative, full 360-degree light-up ring on the Echo). And it’s never clear which side you’re supposed to tap, since there’s no label.

  • You can see feedback across the room. The Dot’s LED ring glows in different colors and patterns to communicate different things—for example, it glows when it’s transmitting sound back to Amazon. You can see it from the side, and therefore from across the room. The Google’s four LEDs are visible only when you’re looking down on the device, which isn’t nearly as useful.
  • You can order stuff. Of course, this is exactly what Amazon hopes you’ll do, but it’s still cool. “Alexa—order more paper towels.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="If you’re a Google Play subscriber, maybe the convenience of speaking your desires for music tips the balance for you toward the Google Home Mini. (The argument about “Buy a Google Home if you keep your calendar in Google Calendar” doesn’t really hold water, since the Echo can consult or add events to the calendar systems of Google or Apple (AAPL) or Microsoft (MSFT).” data-reactid=”81″>If you’re a Google Play subscriber, maybe the convenience of speaking your desires for music tips the balance for you toward the Google Home Mini. (The argument about “Buy a Google Home if you keep your calendar in Google Calendar” doesn’t really hold water, since the Echo can consult or add events to the calendar systems of Google or Apple (AAPL) or Microsoft (MSFT).

Otherwise, though, the Echo Dot is still the better micro-assistant. (Especially when it’s on sale for $40—for example, on the typical Black Friday, which is in a couple of weeks.)

Both of these devices are delicious enhancements to almost anyone’s home. Over time, you’ll find more and more ways that they’re useful—and for only 50 bucks!

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="More from David Pogue:” data-reactid=”100″>More from David Pogue:

The Fitbit Ionic doesn’t quite deserve the term ‘smartwatch’

Augmented reality? Pogue checks out 7 of the first iPhone AR apps 

iOS11 is about to arrive — here’s what’s in it 

MacOS High Sierra comes this fall—and brings these 23 features

T-Mobile COO: Why we make investments like free Netflix that ‘seem crazy’

How Apple’s iPhone has improved since its 2007 debut

Gulliver’s Gate is a $40 million world of miniatures in Times Square

Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant is ambitious, powerful, and half-baked

Is through-the-air charging a hoax?

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="David Pogue, tech columnist for Yahoo Finance, is the author of “iPhone: The Missing Manual.” He welcomes nontoxic comments in the comments section below. On the web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s poguester@yahoo.com. You can read all his articles here, or you can sign up to get his columns by email” data-reactid=”110″>David Pogue, tech columnist for Yahoo Finance, is the author of “iPhone: The Missing Manual.” He welcomes nontoxic comments in the comments section below. On the web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s poguester@yahoo.com. You can read all his articles here, or you can sign up to get his columns by email

 

AI – Enabled Interactive BBC Radio Show For Amazon Echo And Google Home Chatbots

Our love affair with Alexa, Siri and all the other speaking devices has innovators in many industries dreaming up ways to deliver similar technology to their clients or create customer experiences that capitalize on this capability. Spoken interfaces seem to be what people crave and the BBC’s Research & Development professionals have jumped in full throttle to deliver the capability for a two-way spoken conversation with their listeners.

The BBC’s initiative is known as Talking with Machines. This project puts resources to work to “explore the possibilities of these devices and platforms in terms of content, interaction design, and software development patterns.” The BBC aims to be able to support the technology that already exists as well as set the foundation for what is to come. Their goals are to develop a device-independent platform to support spoken interfaces and allow them to play well with Siri, Alexa or whomever joins them in the future as well as build the internal expertise within the BBC around spoken-interface technology.

Additionally, the BBC research and development team is brainstorming and experimenting with all the interaction and content platforms that two-way communication on speaking devices would allow.

The BBC collaborated with other internal teams who are working on similar projects to develop their own engine for speech to text and natural language processing.

What differentiates the Talking with Machines initiative is that the focus is on spoken interfaces, while other projects in the organization are text focused. The team is learning from and leveraging the insights that others had with general conversational UI.

One of the BBC’s first publicly presented experiments from this work is the development of an original interactive audio drama pilot that uses the BBC’s “story engine” and was created specifically for voice devices. This engine makes it easy to release the same story on multiple platforms.

In collaboration with Rosina Sound, the BBC will release The Inspection Chamber, a comedy/science fiction story, later this year. What makes it interactive? Listeners get to be part of the story when it streams through your Amazon Echo or Google Home and cues you to insert your very own lines into the story. The development team fully anticipates expanding into other voice-activated devices in the future.

“In this pilot, you’re actively playing a part in the story, using your own voice—we wanted to make it feel like you’re having a genuine, direct interaction with the other characters in the piece,” according to the BBC’s Research & Development blog.

Although there are similarities with this and a choose-your-own-adventure tale, this interactive story goes beyond that. Inspired by computer games The Stanley Parable and Papa Sangre as well as authors such as Frank Kafka and Douglas Adams, The Inspection Chamber evolved into its own one-of-a-kind experience.

The tale starts off with a female voice saying, “Hello, my name is Dave. I hope life has been comfortable in the containment room.” As the story continues, the listener undergoes a scientific examination and through the process answers questions. Although the overall narrative doesn’t change, the outcome of the 20-minute story will be different based on the listener’s answers to questions they are asked throughout the tale.

The development team had to balance the storyline with technical considerations that included Alexa requiring people to talk every 90 seconds, while it’s every two minutes for Google Home. So, the story had to include a natural way for the listener to respond without it seeming forced. Plus, voice-activated devices can only understand a preselected set of words. The storyline had to meld with the tech constraints; a scientific exam where the listener is given a this-or-that type of question to answer, with those options being a part of the lexicon of the voice-activated devices, ended up being a fairly natural fit. The BBC experimented with several other prototypes before feeling confident in the tech and the storyline of The Inspection Chamber.

Testing continues until the release of the pilot on BBC Tasterbefore the end of the year.

The BBC was the first to expand the use of voice-activated devices beyond weather reports, music and the latest headlines. It will be fascinating to watch as others jump into the race to entertain and inspire us from voice-activated devices.

Thank you for reading my post. Here at HuffPost, LinkedIn and at Forbes I regularly write about management, technology and Big Data. If you would like to read my future posts then simply join my network here or click ‘Follow’. Also feel free to connect on Twitter, Facebook or Slideshare. 

Also, you might like to know that my brand new book ‘Data Strategy: How to Profit from a World of Big Data, Analytics and the Internet of Things’ is out now.

And if you want something to read now, then you could check out my my new and free ebook ‘Beyond The Big Data Buzz: How Data Is Disrupting Business In Every Industry In The World’.

New Google Home speaker leaks with an Amazon Echo Show-style screen

Google could be working on a brand new version of the Google Home smart speaker that features a built-in display.

While Amazon has forged ahead with a dizzying array of Alexa-enabled smart speaker devices, rival device makers have struggled to keep up. We’re still waiting on Apple’s HomePod to actually to make it to stores, for instance. Google has done a better job of keeping pace, with two smart speaker devices having launched so far.

Excitingly, Google could be working on a third device to add to its Google Home smart speaker roster. A new report by Android Police suggests that a Google Home speaker with a built-in screen could be in the works.

The report details information found in a teardown of the Google app v7.14.16 APK file teardown, relating to a codenamed entity – like a product, perhaps – called ‘Quartz’. This could relate to a single hardware product, or a group of devices, or a piece of software – we’re just not sure.

Google Home Mini

According to information found in the APK file, Quartz can perform a number of functions, including:

  • Operating on voice commands
  • Helping with cooking and recipes
  • Watch YouTube
  • Control media
  • Set timers
  • Check the weather
  • View a photo gallery
  • Browse the web
  • Use Google Maps
  • Set a screensaver

In the Android Police article, the author writes: “Based on all of the clues available in the latest update, my prediction is that Quartz is either the codename for a Google Home device with a built-in, full colour touchscreen, or it may be the software component that will interact with such a device.”

The article continues: “When you’re not interacting with the device, it will show a default screen with date and time, weather, and a counter for notifications. The background will cycle through photos like a Chromecast, but they’ll pan and zoom in the Ken Burns style.”

It’s worth noting that TechCrunch has also previously reported that Google is working on a screen-based Google Home speaker, although that original reported cited the product codename as ‘Manhattan’.

amazon echo show

If Google did release such a device, it would be a direct competitor to the Amazon Echo Show. The Echo Show is a spin-off of Amazon’s core Echo speaker, which features its own built-in screen. Google will certainly be wanting to better compete with Amazon, so directly rivalling some of Amazon’s main Alexa offerings is the best way to do that.

Of course, Google hasn’t confirmed any such product announcements, so take this report with due caution.

Related: Google Home vs Amazon Echo

What do you think about the idea of a Google Home device with a built-in screen? Let us know via Facebook or tweet us @TrustedReviews.

Google Home with display will reportedly support YouTube and web browsing

The device is codenamed “Quartz”, and it’ll support YouTube, Google Maps, web browsing, and much more.

With the Pixel 2’s unveiling on October 4, we also got to feast our eyes upon the Google Home Mini and Home Max The Mini and Max look like two solid entries in the Home series, and while they each target new demographics previously unreachable by the regular Google Home, there’s still something missing – none of them have a display.

Can you guess what’s missing?

Although Amazon’s Echo Show isn’t perfect, it’s built-in display does allow for certain functionality you just can’t get on a smart speaker without a screen. Android Police recently conducted a teardown of v7.14.15 of the Google app, and while doing so, they discovered references to a device codenamed “Quartz.” Quartz is expected to be a Google Home that features a display like the Echo Show, and thanks to the Google app teardown, we have an idea of certain features we can expect from the gadget.

First off, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll be able to use Quartz to watch YouTube videos. This is a feature that was removed from the Echo Show in late September, and based on what we know so far, Google’s implementation of YouTube on Quartz will be better than what Amazon ever had (not like that’s much of a surprise).

When watching a YouTube video on Quartz, you’ll reportedly be able to see how many views and likes a video has, read through comments, and check who uploaded the clip. Additionally, you’ll have access to on-screen controls that can be used for pausing/resuming a video, skipping to the next one in a playlist, or going back to a previous video.

The Echo Show got us in the right direction, but Quartz already sounds infinitely better.

Along with well thought-out YouTube support, it’s also expected that Quartz will have a built-in web browser, access to Maps, a photo viewer, the ability to set timers, read recipes, and more. When you aren’t using the Quartz, a standby screen will showcase the current time, weather conditions, notifications, and suggested actions.

We don’t know when Quartz will be released or how much it’ll cost, but even so, just the thought of a Google Home with a screen has us excited.

Teardown reveals and details possible Google Home with a display codenamed ‘Quartz’

A week before the October 4th event, we received a tip that a Google Home competitor to the Amazon Echo Show is in the works. Featuring a 7-inch screen, it would reportedly support a number of Google services. Today, a teardown (via Android Police) of the latest beta version of the Google app contains references to such a device and details its functionality.

Nintendo Switch

Codenamed “Quartz,” references to this device did not appear in our teardown of version 7.14.14 of the Google app on Tuesday. The next day Google released 7.14.15 (and later 7.14.16) to the beta channel where these references are found.

It’s unclear whether “Quartz” is the device’s codename or whether it belongs to a category of devices, like “Bisto” for Assistant-enabled headphones. If it’s the former, the naming is a departure from the current audio-focused Home devices: “joplin” for the Home Mini and reportedly “biggie” for the upcoming Home Max. In fact, the previous rumor suggested that the device would be codenamed “Manhattan.”

Our rumor of a Google Home device featuring a screen noted features like “YouTube, Google Assistant, Google Photos, Netflix, and video calling.” Additionally, it could control Nest and other smart home devices.

Strings in the Google app confirm that YouTube playback functionality with a layout that can display who Uploaded the video, Comments, Likes, Views, and more:

By

(%s)

Comments

Likes

Published

Uploaded by:

Views

Watch

Other strings confirm the presence of controls like next, pause, play, and previous:

next

pause

play

previous

Other strings suggest a web browser, Google Maps, a photo viewer, weather, timers, and the ability to show recipes. Most of these features are already found in Google Assistant, while another string suggests voice commands as a way to operate the device, besides the display:

Try saying…

Meanwhile, a “restscreen” would service as a homescreen of sorts when the device isn’t active. It would display the time, date, weather, notification, and suggestions.

/layout/quartz_rest_screen_suggestions.xml
/layout/quartz_restscreen_background.xml
/layout/quartz_restscreen_carousel.xml
/layout/quartz_restscreen_date.xml
/layout/quartz_restscreen_notification_count.xml
/layout/quartz_restscreen_time.xml
/layout/quartz_restscreen_weather.xml
/layout/quartz_restscreen.xml

Another interesting line directly references Google Home and implies a connection between the two devices:

No local connection to Google Home


Check out 9to5Google on YouTube for more news:

TicHome Mini review: A portable, durable Google Home Mini

Google Assistant is finally breaking free.

When the Google Home was announced, my only problem with it was that it was stuck in one room of my house. While I move about the house doing chores or getting ready for the day, the Google Home has to pick a plug and stick to it. Yes, Google Assistant is on our phones and our televisions now, but it’s an inferior version. It can’t do as much as the version on the Google Home, especially in regards to media control.

What I wanted was a Google Home that could follow me around the house, just as my Bluetooth speakers do. What I wanted, I now have in the TicHome Mini.

The TicHome Mini is an unassuming little puck, available in four colors, including an adorable teal. My review unit is white, which blends unassumingly in my kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and office. No matter the color, it features a silver ring around the top. There are four buttons, four LED lights and two pinhole microphones on the top.

The buttons are easy to spot, and easy to feel for in the dark, as each divot is easy to feel and uniquely marked. The pause/voice command and power/mic mute buttons would make a little more sense reversed, with the command button up front and easier to reach, but three inches isn’t that far to reach for it.

Simple controlsCharge me up

Micro-USB? Really?

The bottom of the unit features the speaker grill and grippy base that keeps the unit from sliding around while you tap it. There’s also a Micro-USB port under the leather carry strap where you charge the device. While Micro-USB isn’t as bad as a proprietary charging system, it’s 2017; a device of this caliber should be charged via USB-C. Having to flip over the device and make sure the cable is the right way up is a pain, and it was exacerbated by the battery issues some TicHome Mini pre-production units had. Because of these issues, which have allegedly been fixed in the final version, I can’t speak much to the battery on the TicHome other than that it was quite short. That’s right, this thing has a battery.

But better keep that charging cable nearby, because TicHome isn’t going to tell you when it’s half-full, only when it’s running empty. The low battery pulse of the light is the only battery warning you get, and since the TicHome uses the same software as the corded Google Homes, there’s currently no commands to get the battery level of your device. This will hopefully be addressed by Google as more portable Google Home type devices are made, but for now, it’s a small pain.

Keep a charge handy

The battery isn’t great, and changing Wi-Fi networks is a pain, but its portability is still handy.

That said, this isn’t a device you should expect to take everywhere. Because changing Wi-Fi networks means completely setting the device back up, the TicHome Mini is a Google Assistant speaker that can follow you to the garage, but shouldn’t follow you into the car as you head off to work. The TicHome Mini can function as a Bluetooth device, just as the regular Google Home does, but you have to already have a phone paired with the speaker before you leave your home Wi-Fi network.

Within the home, though, the TicHome Mini is everything I’d been hoping for and more. Commands have been just as easily and consistently recognized as on my original Google Home (a little better even), and it’s easy to carry this light speaker from room to room as I work on articles, gut a pumpkin, then get ready for bed.

Volume is easy to adjust with the buttons, and the command button works as a pause/play when casting music. Setting up the TicHome Mini is exactly the same as setting up a Google Home, and while the volume does distort a little once you get near max volume, this thing can fill a room with music just as easily as the Google Home Mini. There’s not much bass to be found here, but in a speaker this size, that’s no big shock. The speaker sounds a tiny bit tinny, as a single omnidirectional speaker, but so long as I hadn’t put it on a blanket, sound quality was fine.

This looks portable. It is not.

Many think that the TicHome Mini’s debut has been undercut by the appearance of the $50 Google Home Mini, but this overlooks the entire point of the TicHome Mini. It’s not enough to get the best version of Google Assistant in a smaller, sleeker packer. The TicHome Mini adds functionality the Mini cannot: portability. And seeing as the Google Home Mini is disabling the touch-to-activate feature after a defect was discovered, the TicHome Mini has another advantage: you can long-press the command button and give your command without waking everything in your house by saying “OK Google”.

Bring Google Home to bed with you

Is the TicHome Mini’s portability and that button worth almost double the cost? For many, that answer is probably going to be no. For me, someone who wants the Google Assistant commands “OK Google, fast forward two minutes” and “OK Google, rewind 30 seconds” on literally every platform, I’m willing to pay to get them on a Cast-enabled speaker I can easily take anywhere in my home.

The TicHome Mini has my vote, and a teal one is going on my Christmas list. If you have any kids who like to stream music around the house and having Google help them with their homework, the TicHome Mini might make a good Christmas gift for them, too.

Pre-order TicHome Mini at Mobvoi ($80)

it’s time to go all-in on Google Assistant

Image: mashable/Karissa Bell

If last year’s Google Home was the speaker that proved Google Assistant is worthy Amazon competitor, the Google Home Mini is the one that will get people hooked.

The smaller Google Home has all the same smarts as its larger counterparts, but at less than half the price. It’s difficult to see how that doesn’t shake out as a win for Google.

Functionally, the $49 Google Home Mini is very similar to the original Google Home. The disc-shaped speaker is covered in cloth similar to what’s on the base of the larger model.

The Home Mini comes in just three colors: chalk, charcoal, and coral. And, unlike the bigger Google Home speakers, there’s no way to swap out the color, which would have been nice, but at less than fifty bucks it’s hard to complain. Even with the limited colors, I still very much prefer Google’s unassuming design to Amazon’s hunks of black plastic.

 Underneath the cloth are four LEDs that light up when you say “OK Google.” There are also touch controls, though they aren’t immediately obvious — tap on the right or left side of the speaker to turn the volume up or down. Initially, you could also long press in the center to activate the Assistant, though Google disabled the feature after reports that some Google Home Minis were constantly recording.

Image: mashable/karissa bell

It’s not clear if Google will add that functionality back, but it doesn’t really matter because you’re going to end up talking to the speaker much more than you will touch it. 

I was pleasantly surprised that, despite its smaller size, the Google Home Mini was not only surprisingly powerful, but that its mics were consistently able to pick up my voice even when I was far away or music was playing. In fact, as far as I could tell, its voice recognition was just as good as what’s on my original Google Home.

There are some tradeoffs, though: The Home Mini doesn’t sound as good as the $129 full-sized Google Home, and it doesn’t even come close to the booming $399 Google Home Max. But it doesn’t sound bad, and certainly not any worse than the Echo Dot. 

Image: mashable/karissa bell

Like the Echo Dot, you do have the option to connect the Home Mini to a nicer speaker — provided it’s Chromecast-enabled (unlike the Echo Dot, it doesn’t have an aux hookup for connecting to third-party speakers). And the speaker will also work with Chromecast-enabled TVs, which is super convenient.

Google Home critics like to point out that Google’s developer ecosystem is still pretty far behind Alexa’s skillset, which now has more than 15,000 skills. But the reality is most people probably aren’t going to use more than a handful of apps, and Google is doing a pretty good job of bringing the major players onboard. Unless you have a lot of smart home gadgets not yet supported by Google, chances are Google is more than able to handle what you need — even more so if you’re already at all entrenched in Google’s ecosystem of gadgets and services. 

And that really gets at why Google stands to do so well with the Home Mini: It’s never been easier (or cheaper) to go all in on the its Assistant.

There’s a reason, after all, that Amazon’s Echo Dot is its most popular speaker: It’s small, connects to speakers you already own, and it’s super cheap. By that measure, the Google Home Mini checks all the boxes and then some.

Google Home Mini

The Good

Google Assistant still blows Alexa out of the water Design that will actually look good on your counter

The Bad

No aux jack Limited color options

The Bottom Line

The Google Home Mini is everything that’s great about Google Home at a fraction of the cost.