OK Google, Where’s Barb? How to set up Google Assistant shortcuts to Netflix and more

smart speaker home security google thumb
Google
Google Home, Google’s AI-powered smart home speaker, rarely goes a few months without getting a feature. In the past year, it’s gained support for third-party integrations and added the ability to distinguish between multiple users. And in recent months, it’s rolled out the ability to call any phone number in the U.S. and Canada for free, proactively notify you about things like traffic jams and flight delays, play music from free Spotify accounts, and send directions to your smartphone.

One of its niftiest new abilities though, is shortcuts — an easy way to trigger lengthy, multistep commands with a word or phrase. Instead of having to say, “Play workout music on Google Play Music to my basement speaker” to cue up a treadmill playlist, for example, you might shorten the command to “Start workout.” Or, you might set up a “movie night” profile that ties a Chromecast device to a convenient phrase. With shortcuts, beaming a Netflix series to the living room flatscreen becomes as easy as saying, “Movie time.”

Shortcuts for Google Home are incredibly useful, but they have prerequisites — and they’re a little challenging to get the hang of. Here’s everything you need to know.

Compatible services

Despite the fact that Google Home is powered by the Google Assistant, Google’s intelligent voice assistant that ships on Android TV set-top boxes and Android Wear smartwatches, shortcuts only work on Google Home and Android smartphones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or newer. Unless you’re able to get your hands on an Android phone or Google Home, you won’t be able to use them.

If you can live with that limitation, though, getting started is a cinch. First, you’ll need the Google Home app — download it from the iTunes App Store or Google Play store. Once you’ve launched it and signed in with your Google account, tap on More Settings > Shortcuts. You’ll see two blank text fields labeled: When I say OK Google.. and Google Assistant should do

In the first field, enter a trigger phrase or word — the command you’ll utter to trigger the action — by tapping it out, or by using text-to-speech after tapping the grey microphone icon. After you enter it, you’ll get the option to add a second, optional fallback phrase or word — a second command you can say to trigger the same action.

The second field — Google Assistant should do... — is a bit more complicated. Here, you enter the device or services that will be triggered when the Google Assistant or Google Home recognizes your verbal shortcut. And unfortunately, the Google Home app doesn’t provide much guidance — you have the freedom to enter just about anything, which is fine for simple actions that don’t require much specificity. But if you tap out a command that the Google Assistant or Google Home fail to recognize, you’ll get a basic list of web search results for the phrase you entered.

Worse, there’s no way to validate commands before pushing them live. You have to save them, enable them, test them on Google Home or the Google Assistant, and make changes accordingly.

Once you’ve cleared those hurdles, though, you’ll see your custom shortcuts at the top of Shortcuts menu, where you can toggle them on and off individually.

Smart Home

Amazon Echo Show and Google Home Hub get huge price cuts

If you act today you can get an amazing deal on the first-gen Amazon Echo Show on Woot or the current generation Google Home Hub on Rakuten. The Echo Show works with Alexa and the Google Home Hub with Google Assistant.
Smart Home

These are the 13 best games to play on your new Google Home

Google Home is a handy device, but did you know you can play games with it? There are a ton to play, and we tested them all. Here are some of favorites that you can play on your Google Home device.
Smart Home

Google has tips for making your smart home more eco-friendly

Google is announcing new integrations for Google Assistant with energy and water-saving devices for Earth Day. The company is also offering tips on how to cut down on your energy bill.
Smart Home

Google Home Hub smart display will reportedly be renamed the Google Nest Hub

Insiders reportedly familiar with Google's plans confirmed the Google Home Hub will be rebranded Google Nest Hub. Citing accidental leaks in the Google Store about the Nest Home Max, informed sources suggest a May 7 launch date.
Mobile

Multiple phone leaks show May 21 is going to be a big day for Honor

Honor will launch at least one new smartphone on May 21, at an event taking place in London. Leaks have indicated the Honor 20 will take center stage, with a Lite version, and perhaps even another model also showing up on the day.
Mobile

The Avalon V is Alcatel’s first Verizon-exclusive smartphone

Alcatel is has announced a new phone, the Avalon V -- but this budget device isn't what makes the announcement special. It's Alcatel's first phone on the Verizon network, and it's available now.
Mobile

Sidestep banking fees with the nationwide launch of T-Mobile Money

T-Mobile has launched its Money banking service nationwide in the U.S., and it offers an extremely tempting set of features for everyone, including industry-leading interest rates, a powerful app, and no banking fees.
Mobile

Big, beautiful, and breakable: Check out the best Galaxy S8 Plus cases

There’s no denying Samsung’s ability to turn out an attractive smartphone, but glass curves are expensive to fix and metal chips easily. We've rounded up the best Galaxy S8 Plus cases on the market.
Mobile

The OnePlus 3 & 3T both receive an open beta for Android Pie

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Deals

This is the one thing you need to do before giving your child a smart phone or tablet

Monitoring your kids' digital habits can be a challenge in today’s high-tech age, but great parental control software like Qustodio gives parents a much-needed advantage Read on to find out how you can protect your child from online…
Android

The dramatic BlackBerry Key2 Red Edition is now available in the U.S.

BlackBerry's Key2 is likely to be the best keyboard-equipped phone in 2019, with a modern look, some powerful specs, and totally revamped features. Here's everything you need to know about it.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 update gives manual control of Bright Night mode

Samsung 2019 flagship smartphone lineup is here, and there aren't just two phones as usual — there are four. There's the Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, as well as a new entry called the S10e, as well as the Galaxy S10 5G.
Deals

The excellent Moto G6 is just $99 from Google Fi for a limited time

Getting a cheap smartphone can be a great way to squeeze value out of your dollars. Motorola's Moto G-range has always been good value, but never better than this: Get the Moto G6 for just $99 from Google Fi.
Product Review

The Xperia 10 Plus feels great in your hand, but you'll still want to put it down

There has never been a better time to buy a smartphone with an unusual design, and one of the cheaper models out there vying for your attention is the Sony Xperia 10 Plus, with its 21:9 aspect ratio screen.
1 of 2