I got a Google Home for Christmas – how do I use it?

Picture: David Baylis.
Picture: David Baylis.

SO you got a Google Home for Christmas, now what?

The voice-activated home assistant was arguably this season’s hottest gift especially with price points starting at just $55 for the Google Home Mini.

No doubt many families have it sitting in their lounge rooms right now, but what can it really do for you right out of the box?

Intelligent Home business manager Brenton Morris said people needed to have realistic expectations about what the device could do.

“I saw the ad that showed the person saying, ‘Google, turn off the lights’,” Mr Morris said.

“Well if you’ve got nothing that can turn your lights off as part of a control system, Google Home won’t be able to do that.

“Also, most TVs won’t interface with Google Home unless they have Chromecast – and even that will only do what Chromecast can do, such as turn on Netflix or YouTube.”

According to Mr Morris, homeowners would need to use home-automation platforms such as Control4 to get the most out of Google Home.

“If you have similar coding to my house like I have with Control4, I can put Google Home into my house and control lighting, the alarm system, the doors, entertainment equipment and other devices by talking to it,” he said.

“But I also can use good old Siri, which I’ve already got on my iPhone, including from outside as it’s mobile.

“I can’t imagine shouting across the house and Google Home working effectively.”

Mr Morris said Google Home was essentially a networking device and it needed to be able to “talk” to the other devices on a home network with an internet connection for it to have the functionality depicted in the television ads.

“The first thing people will want to do is go on to the Google site and see what technology is compatible with Google Home,” he said.

“It works with a lot of DIY devices, such as Belkin Wemo, which has smart plugs that fit in-line with your appliances so you can turn them on and off, Philips Hue for lighting, plus some TVs and audio equipment.

“But a lot of this DIY stuff comes with its own problems as it presumes that the person setting it up knows how to set up a network correctly.

“Most people can’t, then they go on YouTube and most of the time it ends in tears.

“But there is a percentage of technical people that get all functionality out of it and make it work.”

One of those people is Community News chief photographer and self-described “tech head” David Baylis.

“Our household is quite tech-savvy and we liked the idea of what Google Home could do with our existing set-up at home,” Mr Baylis said.

“I imported Google Home from overseas six months before it came to Australia and then bought another when it arrived here, plus three Minis to put in each of the kids’ bedrooms.

“We’ve got a WiFi-based environment at home and I also use Google WiFi Home Mesh as well and that works really well with Google Home.”

The Baylis family started using Google Home to control the smart lighting in their house and to play music, but are now finding more and more reasons to tap into their online assistant.

“The kids use it for research purposes when they study, they ask about the weather and we’ve started using the schedule assistant a bit more,” Mr Baylis said.

“It also knows where you work and live so it can tell you about traffic and look at your calendar to let you know what you have on that day.”

Mr Baylis said Google Home had come a long way since he purchased his first device and said there were fresh features to use every week.

“There’s a new thing called Broadcast that tells everyone in the house the same message: for example, you can tell Google Home to broadcast that ‘Dinner’s ready’, it will let everyone know through the device in their room,” he said.

“The kids love to ask it to tell them a joke, and you can do basic stuff like get it to roll a dice or toss a coin, and it just means we’re using it more and more.

“It’s easy to setup and takes a bit of time to get used to but it’s a quick learning curve and a lot of fun.”


Want to get the most out of Google Home? Get started with these affordable DIY options:

* Belkin WeMo Switch in-line plug adapter, from $19.

* Google Chromecast media streaming device, from $55.

* Philips Hue lighting control system, $144 for the starter kit and $29 for additional bulbs.

* B&O Play speakers, from $379.

* Spotify music streaming service, free or starting at $11.99 a month for Premium.