How to Add Users to Google Home

Image credit: Spencer Platt/Getty

Sometimes all I need in this crazy world is a brisk walk to clear my head and some good music bumping through my headphones. But when that simple pleasure is interrupted every morning by my partner issuing voice commands while I’m out of the house, silencing the music in my headphones, it can be a tad frustrating. It’s especially irksome when the root cause is the multiple user preferences of my Google Home, a voice assistant that is there to, ostensibly, make my life a little easier.

If you share a voice assistant with another person in your home, you might have run into the same music playback peeve, wondering if you’ll ever find peace when your partner decides to play Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic for the fifth day in a row. Fortunately, the problem can be easily solved.

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Enable Multi-User Support

When Google Home debuted, anyone could ask it about about the weather, or traffic on the way to work, but it would only provide answers based on the registered user’s information. But plenty of people don’t live by themselves—or they have guests who might want to use Google Home for their own purposes. That’s why an update in April to the voice assistant enabling multi-user support was so important. It allows Google Home to distinguish your voice from your partner’s. It added support for up to six registered users, giving everyone the ability to ask when their next meeting is, or tell Google Home to play more Michael Jackson.

The person who wants to add themselves as a user will need to use their own iOS or Android device and install the Google Home app. (Before you open the Home app, be sure you’re on the same Wi-Fi network as your assistant.) In the Home app, log in with your Google account, and select your Google Home from the device list. Select the blue “Link your account” or “Multi user is now available” banner. You’ll be asked to perform a voice calibration test—be prepared to say “Hey, Google” a few times. According to the company, your voice is fed to a neural network, where Google identifies its unique characteristics, making it easier to distinguish between multiple users.

State Your Musical Preferences

Congratulations, your voice assistant can now separate you from your partner! Now, you’ll need to pick your music preference. Google Home supports free music streaming from Spotify, Pandora, and Google Play Music services. You can also use the premium versions of Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, YouTube Red, and Google Play Music to request whatever tunes you’d like. Google’s YouTube Red and Google Play Music services should work automatically, while Deezer, Spotify, and Pandora users will have to go through a few extra steps.

To connect your streaming account (individual or family accounts work just fine), you’ll have to drill down into your Google Home profile settings. In the menu, select Account Preferences, then scroll down to “Music” located in the Services section. Select the Link option for your streaming service of choice, and sign in with their respective accounts.

Accommodate Your Guests

Got visitors that love to hijack the stereo? You can prevent them from accessing your personal information while still letting them issue voice commands thanks to Google Home’s guest mode.

In your list of devices, tap the options button in the top right of your Google Home icon and select Guest Mode, where you can toggle the feature on and off. Guests can still send content using Google’s Cast functionality, though they’ll need to be on a Wi-Fi network. Select “Nearby Device” when attempting to cast content, and look for the voice assistant, which will attempt to pair with your phone via audio cues or a 4-digit pin.

Now, when any user requests a particular song, Google will identify the user and use their account’s preferences and services to serve up songs or videos.

How to link and unlink smart device services from the Google Home app

Some things seem more complicated than they should be.

The Google Home app does more than setting up the Google Home itself. You use it to set up Chromecast devices and smart “things” in your homes, like Hue lights or a Nest. Because you can use the app for so many different things, there is a good chance that eventually you’ll need to unlink one of them from your Google account. At the beginning of September, Google sent out an update for voice control on some of those smart devices which also requires you unlink them to update everything.

More: These products and services work with Google Home

Linking and unlinking a device service from Google Home isn’t difficult, but it’s certainly not the most intuitive process you’ll come across. We can make it a little easier.

Linking a device

  • Open the Google Home app, and tap the Menu in the top left corner of your screen.
  • If you have more than one Google account on your phone, check to make sure you’re using the right one.
  • Scroll halfway down the page and tap the entry marked More settings.
  • Make sure you’re on the Devices tab and not the Rooms tab. They are labeled at the top of your screen.
  • Tap the blue button with the + to add and link a device.
  • Choose your device from the list.
  • Follow the instructions that open from your device manufacturer.
  • When the pairing is complete, click Done in the upper right.
  • Set a name for the device.
  • Assign it to a room.

A word or two on naming and room assignment. You’ll be prompted to give your device a nickname, and the name you choose is what you’ll be calling it if it uses voice commands. Try to make it an easy one or two syllable name that you’ll remember. It doesn’t have to have the same name your manufacturer assigned it or the name you chose during the manufacturer’s setup.

Room assignment is important when you’re using voice to control the things in your house. You might have a Chromecast, some Hue lights, and a smart thermostat in your living room, and have another Chromecast and smart lamp setup in the bedroom. Assigning a room means you can say “Dim the lights in the bedroom” or “Play the Beatles in the living room” and Google Home will do the rest. If you don’t tell it where your stuff is, you’ll have to remember the device names each and every time.

Unlinking a device

  • Open the Google Home app, and tap the Menu in the top-left corner of your screen.
  • If you have more than one Google account on your phone, check to make sure you’re using the right one.
  • Scroll halfway down the page and tap the entry marked More settings.
  • Make sure you’re on the Devices tab and not the Rooms tab. They are labeled at the top of your screen.
  • Tap the blue button with the + in it.
  • You’ll see the same list of devices as you did when you linked one. Your linked devices are at the top of the list labeled Linked services
  • Find the device you want to unlink and tap it.
  • Tap the label marked Unlink account in the window that opens.
  • Confirm your choice

This process removes the permissions the manufacturer had to access your Google account. That means the service itself is removed, but if any data is stored on the device will remain. Follow the instructions from your manufacturer if you need to wipe a device clean so somebody else can use it.

Your account with the manufacturer will also remain in place. You can keep the account in case you need it again or delete it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

All finished!

You’ll notice this is very different from the process used to add a Google Home or Chromecast device. You won’t need to do this very often, but when you do you’ll have all the directions in one place to get you started!

This new feature makes it easier for Google Home to hear you

One of Google Home’s ($129 at Jet.com) best features is how well it interacts with other Google products. Specifically, it works really well with Chromecast, allowing you to power on any TV or stream your favorite movies or shows on Netflix or using just your voice.

There’s a problem, however. If your TV or speakers are just loud enough, Google Home can have trouble hearing your commands.

Fortunately, Google recently rolled out a new feature to address that particular issue. Here’s how to use it.

Lower Cast audio when talking to Google Home

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Sarah Tew/CNET

When the noise level of a room is extra high, like when you’re watching a movie or streaming music, Google Home can definitely have trouble hearing the wake word. But usually, if you say it loud enough, you can get the speaker to hear the short wake phrase. In that specific scenario, the real problem lies with what you say after the wake words. Movie or music audio can jumble your commands, making it difficult for Google Home to understand what you’re saying.

However, if that music or movie happens to be playing through a Chromecast device, you will notice them acting differently in the future — if you haven’t already.

The new feature is called Lower volume when listening, and it does exactly what you’d expect. After you say the wake word, the volume of the Cast devices will be lowered while Google Home listens to your command. Once you’re finished with your command, the volume goes back to normal.

You will, however, still have to speak the wake work loud enough for Google Home to hear you. So if your Cast volume is too high to begin with, the new feature still may not help.

The setting is toggled on by default, but if you find the functionality to be disruptive, you can disable it.

  • Open the Google Home app on iOS or Android.
  • Tap the Devices button in the top right corner or tap the hamburger button in the top left and select Devices from the list.
  • Tap the action overflow button (three dots) in the top right corner of the card for your Google Home and select Settings in the dropdown menu.
  • Scroll down and tap on Lower volume when listening to uncheck it.

With the feature disabled, when you speak to Google Home, the volume of Chromecast devices will remain the same like it always has.

It’s important to note that this feature currently has several limitations:

  • It doesn’t work when you’re casting to a group of Cast devices.
  • If you started casting using anything other than Google Home, such as your phone or computer.
  • It won’t work when casting with Android TV devices with fixed volumes.
  • It doesn’t work when casting using a TV or speaker with Chromecast built in and running a firmware version older than 1.25.
  • It’s not compatible with movies or TV shows that use 5.1 surround sound.

Xiaomi Mi Yeelight – Quick Look and integration with Google Home

I’m currently on a bit of a bent with automating my home lights, integrating them in with Google Home. To date I’ve installed Philips Hue, LiFX and now Xiaomi Mi Yeelights.

After installing a few of these bulbs I’ve found that cost is key. Finding a well priced, decent Wi-Fi connected light bulb that I can connect to my home which then offers Google Home integration is where the Xiaomi Mi Yeelight steps in. It’s regularly priced at between $12-$20 on sites around the internet so if you find a good deal you can outfit your home pretty cheaply.

The light I purchased is the ‘Original Xiaomi Mi Yeelight E27 8W White LED Smart Light Bulb’. There are multi-coloured Yeelight bulbs but I’m really not interested in anything other than white for the house.

I purchased through BangGood which I pointed to when the Yeelights first became compatible with Google Home. This prompted a couple of requests from readers on how long delivery took etc. from BangGood. So, my light arrived. It took 28 days from order to arrival on my doorstep.

I finally got around to installing it, and it’s now part of my home lighting setup and to be frank, it’s pretty darn good.

Hardware

There’s not much you need when you buy the Xiaomi Mi Yeelight, it has Wi-Fi built-in so you don’t need an additional hub on your network to make it all work. Simply plug it into your light socket and it’s a go.

There’s a rider there with the plug it in and go, the Yeelight is an E27 Screw Cap connector, so if your house is using the B22 Bayonet Cap connector in your house as I am you’ll need an adapter.

For those who do need an adapter, Ikea sells the ‘KOPPLA‘, a B22 to E27 bulb converter for $2.99 for a pack of 2 which will let you plug the bulbs in with no issues. Or if that’s a bit much you can of course try random eBay sellers.

So, the bulbs are smart bulbs, they operate at a colour temperature of 2700K, which Xiaomi describes as being ‘the best balance between warm light and brightness’. For me it’s a bit yellow, I prefer a more stark bright white light which I get from the LiFX bulb, but the Yeelight is pretty good. It’s an 8W globe with an estimated 25000 hours of usage on it, so it should last a fairly long time.

They’re rated at 600 Lumens, which isn’t the brightest but it’s good enough. For reference, Philips Hue bulbs are about 800lm while LiFX are around 1,000lm or more depending on the bulb you buy.

Overall I was pretty happy with the bulb itself, it’s a little yellow for my liking but that’s not a huge issue and it’s decently bright. The Yeelight os also quite well made, it feels solid enough though not overly so.

Setup

The setup is fairly easy. I first setup the Yeelight using the Yeelight app on Google Play. Once you open the app you’ll be prompted to setup an account with Xiaomi. You’ll find several options for servers to use in the app, I went with Singapore as it was the closest to Australia – but feel free to try out some other options. The setup was fairly simple and English the whole way through so pretty impressive.

After adding my single Yeelight to the app, I was quickly turning it off/on, dimming/brightening smoothly. But of course the end-game is getting this light integrated with my current automated home lighting thanks to Google Home.

Adding in Yeelight Actions require the connection to my Xiaomi account, I entered these details in….and it failed. There seems to be some issue with Google Home and Yeelight Actions for me as it kept telling me it couldn’t connect my account. But, it seems something went right, because when you checked the connected accounts it was connected, sitting right near the Hue and LiFX accounts connected. I unlinked my Yeelight Actions account,re-linked and everything went smoothly this time.

After that, it’s as easy as assigning the Yeelight to a room in the Google Home app.

Wrap

I have to say I’m a bit of a fan of these bulbs. I love my LiFX but the price for new bulbs can get expensive if they’re not on-sale. Hue is great, and bulbs are pretty decently priced, but you do have to have their hub installed. For my money I think I’ll be investing in some more of these Xiaomi Mi Yeelights.

Where to get them

If you’re like me, you want these cheap. The best two places for the Yeelight appear to be GearBest and BangGood who both compete on price. Every time I’ve purchased from either I’ve found discounts by simply searching on Google, so I definitely recommend you do that. The GearBest deals are also often bolstered by additional discounts by ordering through their app, so make sure you take that into account as well.

Note: The links above are affiliate links, you pay no more by using them and we get the benefit of some cash to put towards better coverage.

 

Google Home now lowers the volume of casting audio when using Google Assistant

If you’ve ever tried to ask your Google Home a question when it’s casting audio to a TV or speaker, you’re probably aware that it can have trouble understanding you when the audio is too loud. I’ve run into this countless times, so I’m happy to report that Google is now working to make this a much more seamless operation.

Now, when your Google Home is casting videos or music to a TV or speaker, the Assistant will automatically lower the volume so it can better understand what you’re saying. For instance, if you’re casting a YouTube video to your television from your Google Home and want to ask it a question (such as “turn the volume down”), your TV will lower when you say “Ok Google” and stay at that level until you’re done talking to the Assistant. This feature should now be enabled by default.

Related: How to sign up for the Google Home Preview Program

I’ve been able to make this work on my Google Home running on preview firmware version 97091, though it sounds like some users don’t have access to the feature yet. If you’d like to see if it’s live for you, navigate to the devices section in your Google Home app, and you should see an option called Lower volume when listening.

However, this feature won’t work in all cases. Here are the list of exceptions for when Google Home won’t lower the volume:

  • If you’re casting music on a group of Cast devices.
  • If you started casting content on a TV or speaker using a mobile phone and not your voice.
  • When casting content on an Android TV devices with fixed volume (e.g. Nexus Player)
  • When casting content on a Chromecast built-in speaker or TV, or Android TV running Chromecast firmware version older than 1.25. Here’s how to check your firmware version.
  • For TV shows and movies when playback is done at 5.1 surround sound.

This should make talking to your Assistant much easier. Are you seeing this feature yet? Let us know in the comments below.

Google Home will soon lower volume of videos and music you’re casting to devices when you’re using Assistant

Google Assistant is the main selling point behind the Google Home, but Assistant can’t really help you if there’s audio blasting in the background and it can’t hear you. To alleviate this, Google Home will now automatically lower the volume of any music or video playing on speakers or TVs that it’s casting to when a user is speaking to Assistant.

The idea is simple – to make it easier for Assistant to hear you when you speak to it and for you to more easily hear Assistant when it replies back, Home will now automatically lower volume from casted devices when Assistant is activated. However, it won’t work when the following conditions are true:

  • If you’re casting music on a group of Cast devices. 
  • If you started casting content on a TV or speaker using a mobile phone and not your voice.
  • When casting content on an Android TV devices with fixed volume (e.g. Nexus Player)
  • When casting content on a Chromecast built-in speaker or TV, or Android TV running Chromecast firmware version older than 1.25. Here’s how to check your firmware version.
  • For TV shows and movies when playback is done at 5.1 surround sound.

Google’s support page says that this feature is live now, but of Artem’s four – yes, four – Homes (one of which is on preview firmware), none of them have this capability yet. But if you do and would like to turn this functionality off for whatever reason, you can do so by following these steps:

  • Make sure your mobile device or tablet is connected to the same Wi-Fi as your Google Home device.
  • Open the Google Home app.
  • In the top right corner of the Home screen, tap Devices to see available Google Home devices.
  • Scroll to find the device card for the Google Home you’d like to adjust.
  • In the top right corner of the device card, tap the device card menu Settings.
  • Under “Lower volume when listening”, tap the checkbox or slide the slider off.

Let us know if you guys are seeing this feature in the comments below.

Google Assistant is gaining mysterious new smart home control features, software update inbound

The Google Assistant has seen a host of new features and capabilities added since launch, and as demoed at Google Developer Days earlier this week, there are a lot more new goodies to look forward to in the near future. Along with the announced upgrades, Google is also alerting users to prepare for new Assistant features regarding its integration with smart home devices.

Sigma 18-35mm Lens

Last night, I received an email from Google letting me know that a software update was rolling out that would introduce new features for smart home gadgets connected to the Google Assistant/Google Home. Google says that a notification will be sent out via the Assistant and Home when the software update is ready, and part of the email reads as follows:

This upgrade will allow you to try new features and integrations that will be coming in the near future. In order to enjoy these features and keep all of tour devices synced with your Assistant, please complete the instructions below.

From here, Google walks you through a pretty clunky process for checking whether or not you’ve got updates waiting for your smart home devices.

You’ll need to first open the Google Home app on your phone, open up the menu, go to the Home Control tab, and tap on the “+” symbol. When you do this, you’ll see a list of all the smart services that are currently connected and what ones are available that you aren’t using.

If you see an “Upgrade!” message next to any of your services, tapping it will ask you to unlink said service and then relink it to your account.

As you might expect, doing this will require you to reconnect all of the smart home gadgets connected to that service and rename/re-add them to any rooms that you have set up with the Google Home app.

It’s a pain in the butt for sure, but unfortunately, there’s no way to get around it. For example, if there’s an update for the Philips Hue service and you ask Google to turn on the lights, you’ll get a message back saying that you need to check the Google Home app to upgrade that service.

I currently have an update for WeMo, but nothing for Philips Hue (the only two services I’ve got connected to Google Home/Assistant). Google hasn’t exactly said what specific features will come as a result of these new updates, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see if they’re worth the hassle of disconnecting and relinking everything.


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Hands, Er, Off with Google Home Hands-Free Calling

Google recently announced that hands-free phone calling had come to Google Home, its Google Assistant-based smart speaker.

I spent some time using it to place test phones calls to my other phone this week. Here’s what you need to know.

It’s only available in the U.S. and Canada. As Google notes, hands-free calling is only available in the U.S. and Canada right now. I expect that to improve over time.

It’s free. Anyone can use Google Home to make free hands-free calls to the U.S. and Canada.

You can only call phones that are in the U.S. or Canada. Unless you’re a Project Fi or Google Voice customer, in which case international calls will work fine and your normal calling rates will apply.

It works with G Suite accounts. While G Suite and its custom domains sometime cause issues with certain Google services—including Google Home, by the way, which doesn’t let me access my calendar—hands-free phone calling does work.

It works like you’d expect. You can say something like “OK, Google, call Stephanie” to call a contact named Stephanie. If that contact has more than one phone number, Home will ask, “Home or mobile?” You can also call numbers (“Call 123, 456, 7890”) or businesses (by name). It also supports related commands like “Redial,” and Google Home volume commands work normally.

It works with multiple users. As is the case with Google Home generally, hands-free calling supports multiple users. So if you’ve configured the device to recognize your voice, it will use your contacts and not someone else’s.

You should be specific. If you have multiple contacts with the same first name, you should say the full name. Otherwise, you will be prompted with, “There are two people with that name, Paul Thurrott and Paul McKiernan. Which do you want to call?” (Or similar.) Likewise, you can just complete the thought to not be prompted: “Call Paul Thurrott on mobile.”

You can end the call. You can do so with your voice—“OK, Google, hang up” (or similar; “disconnect,” “end call,” and “stop” all work)—or by pressing the top of your Google Home.

You can issue other commands while in a call, too. While you’re speaking to someone via Google Home, you can still control the device by saying “OK, Google” or by pressing and holding on the top of Google Home. The other party won’t hear what you say to Google Home, and after it completes your request, the call will resume normally.

No, you can’t use it to answer the phone. Hands-free calling is outbound-only right now, and Google says it “doesn’t have additional details to share regarding inbound calls” at this time. This means you can’t block calls with Google Home, either.

You (probably) won’t be correctly identified by Caller ID. For the short term, those you’re calling will not see your Caller ID; instead, they will see “Unknown” or “No Caller ID.” But Google Voice and Project Fi users are an exception. To enable Caller ID for Project Fi, for example, open the Google Home app on your phone and navigate to Devices. Then, select the “More” (“…”) item and then Settings > Google Assistant Settings/More > Calls and then choose “Google Voice” or “Project Fi.”

It doesn’t record you. Google Home doesn’t offer any call recording capabilities, and despite Google’s reputation, it doesn’t secretly record you either. However, it does record the commands you use to initiate calls, as it does with all “OK, Google” commands.

Overall, this is pretty impressive, and I bet it emerges as a key use for Google Home. My wife has already used it to call her mother while in the kitchen, for example, and it’s very natural.

Tagged with Google, Google Assistant, Google Home

Best Google Home Actions and skills: Getting started with Google’s smart speaker

Google’s Amazon Echo rival, Google Home, has been on the market for months now in the UK. If you’ve just bought one, or are thinking about doing so, the myriad features may be a little overwhelming.

And while the Amazon Echo has Skills you can enable, Google Home’s features are called Actions. It is difficult not to compare Google Home to Amazon’s Echo, as both fulfill incredibly similar roles, but when it comes to answering questions, Google Home seems to be smarter. Research by 360i found, after asking each 3,000 questions, Google Home was six times more likely to get the answer right.

READ NEXT: Best Alexa Skills

 To help you make the most of the Google Home and this intelligence, we’ve outlined a few key Actions and features of Google Home below for beginners, and we’ll be adding more over the coming months for more advanced users.

Add multiple users

Google Home was updated in the UK in June with software enabling it to differentiate between voices so multiple people can use the same device. Up to six people can connect their own Google accounts, and the device will be able to pull up their individual information like calendars and playlists.

This setting requires the latest version of the Google Home app to be installed, then multiple users can be added by finding the “multi-user is available” card, and selecting ‘”Link your account”. Each new user has to teach Google Home what they sound like by saying “Ok Google” and “Hey Google” twice each.

Many of the basic tasks like setting alarms, timers and adding items to your shopping list will be available for any of the six registered users.

If This Then That (IFTTT)

Some of Google Home’s most useful abilities use the way it can pair with other tools, allowing you to create custom commands, for which there are many tutorials online. This uses the creation software If This Then That (IFTTT). Google Assistant’s Tasker app can then integrate these commands.

Music and video

Google Home works with a number of popular streaming apps including Google Play Music, Spotify, and Netflix. Google Play Music will automatically work with the Google account used to sign into Google Home during setup. 

You’ll need to have separate Spotify and Netflix accounts, however. Once these accounts are set up, you can enable these apps via the Google Home app. 

Start your car

Increasingly, new products are coming out with compatibility with the device. For example, if you own a Hyundai, you can use Google Home to start your car. Through the company’s Blue Link Agent, which launched on the company’s 2012 Sonata model, a few controls of the car can be controlled remotely using the digital assistant. This includes starting the car, setting the temperature and putting a destination address in for your next journey.

Vacuum your house

At IFA 2017, it was announced that Neato’s newest robot vacuum cleaner will be compatible with Google Home, Alexa and IFTTT. The Neato D7 Connected will cost £799/$799/€899 and be available in the US and Europe at the end of this year. 

You can now use Google Home to watch the latest episodes from CBS and the CW

With Google Home already allowing voice control for your Spotify and Netflix accounts, it was only a matter of time until more services were allowed to use Google’s connected speaker to act as a pseudo-remote. That inevitability continues to become reality as you can now use Google Home to watch shows from CBS and the CW through CBS All Access and CWTV, respectively.

Google confirmed the news with Engadget, though the search giant clarified that the new updates are rolling out “as they get ready.” In other words, not everyone will see CBS All Access and CWTV as options in the Google Home application, though that should change relatively soon.

The good news is you do not need a subscription to CBS All Access to stream episodes, though the amount of content you can watch will be limited and you will be “treated” to ads during episodes. Even so, this is exciting news for those who wanted to use Google Home to control video services apart from Netflix and YouTube.

Weirdly enough, it seems as if support for CWTV is very limited, with folks only able to play the latest aired episode and not able to issue next or previous episode commands. You also cannot turn dubbing on or off and play the next unplayed episode, though this all could change with an update.

If you want to link your CBS All Access and the CW subscriptions, you will first need to open the Google Home app. From there, go to the Videos and Photos section and link your accounts. You will need to sign in to each service to complete the process, and you can choose to unlink the apps at any time.

Keep in mind that more video services, such as Hulu and HBO Now, will eventually include Google Home support. We’re still scratching our heads over why YouTube TV is not yet supported, though.