OK, Google: What can Home do? The speaker’s most useful skills

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Google Home has been on the market for several months now, and the debate between Amazon Echo owners and Google Home aficionados remains fierce. Naturally, Google’s smart speaker features fewer applications than Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices, namely because it’s only been on the market for a short time.

Nonetheless, many Google Home owners still believe that, in the long run, Google Home will prove to be a more robust platform than Alexa. Interest rose considerably in the device when Google launched Actions, a platform that allows third-party developers to create reply-based actions via Google Assistant, which is the engine that drives the smart speaker. It’s a welcome change for a company that has long rejected Apple’s “walled garden” approach to app development.

When it comes to using the device, there are still a lot of things it can’t do, sadly. But it’s learning. Here are just a few of Google Home’s most useful skills.

Get personal

Recently, Google Home got a major upgrade with the ability to distinguish between multiple voices. Why is that a game-changer? Before, you could only link a single account, meaning the user’s partner, kids, or roommate couldn’t ask the device for their calendar info or traffic conditions for their commute. Though it’s still lagging behind Alexa when it comes to being able to use more than just Google’s default calendar, the voice-recognition aspect is definitely a step-up compared to Amazon’s devices.

To set up multiple accounts, open the Google Home app, and tap the card that says “Multi-user is available.” Click “Link your account,” then teach the Google Assistant to recognize your voice by saying short phrases like, “OK Google,” and “Hey, Google. You can add up to six different accounts, and the Google Home will analyze your speech patterns to tell who’s who. Your music, commute information, daily brief, and more will all be recited to you — and hopefully not your nosy friend. To learn more about how this works, read our post here.

Automate your life with Tasker, Todoist, IFTTT, Wonder, and AutoVoice

If you took a brain scan of any Google-minded developer in December, you’d see their synapses firing up to connect the dots. One of the most useful facets of Google Home is its ability to pair with other tools, applets, and apps, which allows you to create custom commands for a variety of tasks. It’s also easy to find tutorials that demonstrate how to use the free applet creation software, IFTTT (If This, Then That), to create custom commands that can then be integrated into Google Assistant’s Tasker productivity app (Android, $3) or AutoVoice, a useful Tasker plugin. Just glancing at the Google applets will reveal a medley of skills, some of which will allow you to track your work hours in Google Calendar or back up your texts to a Google spreadsheet.

AutoVoice lets you create voice commands that trigger different responses from Google Home. Setup and getting started takes a bit of work and practice, but the results are worth it. You will need an Android device, though.

IFTTT and Tasker offer great workarounds for things Google Home can’t do on its own yet, but the speaker does have some native capabilities. Unlike with Alexa, Google Home has its abilities activated by default, so you don’t have to set them up. For some, like Todoist, you’ll still need to link your account. Ask Google to talk to Wonder, and you’ll be greeted by a different voice. You can then tell it to remember your gate code or sister’s birthday. Whenever you talk to Wonder again, you can ask to have the information recited back to you.

Stream music and video via Google Home

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In the age of iTunes, Spotify, and Shazam, playing music might seem like a basic application for Google Home, but it really is a fundamental application for the platform. Thankfully, Google put some thought into its music partnerships, so this function was one of the most stable and robust applications on the platform at launch. The product works seamlessly with Google Play Music, Pandora, Spotify, and iHeart Radio, among other streaming platforms. You can link up several Homes and Chromecast devices to create multi-room audio, as well.

The Home’s controls are also fairly intuitive; just tap the top of the device to pause a broadcast, and tap again to resume play. Naturally, these features also apply to video services such as Netflix and YouTube. You can use Chromecast to have Google Home put up a Netflix series or YouTube video on your TV.

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