Here’s your quick, fun, sometimes serious, and always interesting daily tech digest, by way of the DGiT Daily newsletter, for Monday, April 8, 2019!

1. The problem with ‘OK Google’ just isn’t going away

I was setting up my Google Home Mini this weekend in a different spot, and asked it a range of questions along the way.

And, as I was reading the tech coverage over the weekend, found myself in fresh and complete agreement with Barbara Krasnoff at The Verge, who wrote: “Google Assistant’s worst feature is still having to say ‘Hey Google’.”

Amazon Echo, Google Home Mini, and Google Home top-down image on wood table.

Why do we still have to say “OK Google” or “Hey Google”?

  • OK Google is an annoying phrase to say when you need to say it multiple times. Yes.
  • But the very first-world problem for those owning multiple Google Home devices is how frustratingly it is when the devices stop playing together.
  • As Krasnoff explains, “…say something like, ‘Hey Google, set a timer for 12 minutes,’ and the expected ‘Timer set’ response would come from a device somewhere else in the house.”
  • The issue is that Google can very well allow a more customizable launch phrase to start a Google Home.
  • As far back as late 2013, Google offered the ability to customize your launch phrase. From “OK Google Now” to anything you wanted. (I used “Ok Computer” for various reasons.)
  • Google has avoided the Siri/Alexa anthropomorphized option, choosing not to create a personality. Even the original project was called “Project Majel,” a nod to the voice of computer systems in “Star Trek.”
  • But Amazon lets you choose between “Alexa,” “Amazon,” “Echo,” or “computer.”
  • So why hasn’t Google’s increasingly better voice recognition just allowed us to call the nameless Google Assistant something else?
  • Krasnoff argues it’s all marketing: “Because the company that sells us the technology wants us to say its name. Constantly. All the time. No matter how much that affects the actual efficiency of the technology.”
  • Legal departments might be playing their roles too.

The point: enforced clunkiness

  • The point, though, is that no one wants these Assistants listening to all conversations, especially given how limited they are for most requests.
  • Smart watches have nice implementations, where gestures can activate Siri or Google Assistant, while some smartphones have dedicated buttons or squeezable sides.
  • But the ideal future is seamless. As we spoke about last week with the Apple AirPods, while they’re expensive and don’t offer amazing sound, the sync from AirPod to iPhone just works. The magic of ‘just works’ isn’t anywhere close to being real from current AI.
  • That means a particular launch phrase remains the clunky activation method, for now.
  • The first device that manages to do something better – without forcing people to say a phrase, and that doesn’t trigger accidentally – will force a big change to smart devices, and start to create much deeper experiences than surface level abilities.

2. Huawei P30 Pro review: A phone with superpowers. David Imel’s video review is a great watch too, featuring different parts of Morocco! (Android Authority).


3. Samsung’s Galaxy S10 fingerprint sensor fooled by 3D printed fingerprint (The Verge).


4. Xiaomi Foxconn factory line: How the Xiaomi Mi 9 is produced (GizChina).


5. Netflix confirms it has abruptly ended Apple AirPlay support. First offered in 2013, Netflix now won’t let you beam shows to Apple TVs anymore. Apple vs Netflix is quite the power-play (The Verge).


6. CNET’s Dan Ackerman did his best to defend the problematic Apple Mac keyboard. It’s a bit lukewarm and based on personal anecdotes, including that he still ran into some issues even with review units.


7. Google I/O 2019 is now under a month away: What to expect (AA).


8. A lot of people are angry at this blog which says “If someone doesn’t send a thank you email, don’t hire them.” Here’s a very reasonable explanation of the problems with that (shkspr.mobi).


9. Study: Two Monitors or One Ultrawide? (HN).


10. Battery reality: There’s nothing better than Lithium-Ion coming soon (Bloomberg).


11. Ever get rage while stuck behind someone walking slowly? Why your brain hates slowpokes, and how to be less impatient (Nautilus).


12. A new, mystery ‘untitled’ Marvel movie will be shot in Australia (CNET). (I’m guessing it could be Shang-Chi.)


13. “Ask HN: Which great products didn’t succeed?” (HN)


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