Google Home can play soothing nature sounds to help you stay productive

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Google

Google Home, Google’s artificial intelligence-imbued smart home speaker, can walk you through recipes, place restaurant reservations, start your car, and recap the day’s most significant events. But that is not all it can do. Thanks to a recent update, Google Home can serve up soothing ambient sounds that reduce stress and aid in concentration.

Choosing a track is simple. Following up Google Home’s “OK Google” activation phrase with, “Help me relax,” or, “Play ambient noise” starts a random track. You can specify its length by saying, “Play an ambient noise for two hours,” or select a track by asking, “What other ambient sounds do you know?” and choosing one from the list.

The current selection includes:

  • Relaxing sounds
  • Nature sounds
  • Water sounds
  • Running water sounds
  • Outdoor sounds
  • Babbling brook sounds
  • Country night sounds
  • Oscillating fan sounds
  • Fireplace sounds
  • Forest sounds
  • Ocean sounds
  • Rain sounds
  • River sounds
  • Thunderstorm sounds
  • White noise
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The Google Home is powered by Google Assistant. Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Google Home’s mellow soundtracks are good news for productivity. According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, moderate-level ambient noise — about 70 decibels, equivalent to a passenger car traveling on a highway — enhances performance on creative tasks.

The new ambient sounds feature comes on the heels of another Google Home improvement: Expanded home automation support. In May, Google brought products from Logitech, TP-Link, Wink, Rachio, iHome, Emberlight, Artik Cloud, and Leviton into the fold, adding to a growing list of partners. In March, it brought on August, Lifx, Wink, First Alert, Vivint, Best Buy, Insignia, Frigidaire, Anova, and Geeni.

More recently, Google introduced 25 new actions — third-party apps — for Google Home, including one that lets you listen to hundreds of bird songs and a voice-activated virtual concierge. The Bird Song Skill by Thomptronics can play more than 200 bird sounds and test your knowledge with a song quiz. And Virtual Concierge tells vacation renters at The Lodge in Palmer Lake, Washington, about things like Wi-Fi passwords, nearby restaurants, and activities.

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Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Google said that more than 175 actions have been added to Google Home since the launch of Actions on the Google Assistant platform last December.

The new skills, actions, and integrations follow the launch of multi-account support in early April. A machine-learning algorithm can distinguish between up to six different voices — once enabled, Google Home personalizes responses to questions about upcoming calendar appointments, lists, music, and more.

It will only get better. In an interview with Backchannel earlier this year, Fernando Pereira, Google’s lead natural language scientist, predicted that artificial intelligence would help Google Home become “more fluent, more able to help you do what you want to do, understand more of the context of the conversation, [and] be more able to bring information from different sources.”