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Dear Google, please show me which voice commands I can use with my smart home
When it comes to digital assistants, you have choices. Amazon’s Alexa was the first prominent one. Samsung’s Bixby is on Galaxy phones around the world. Apple fans get Siri. However, for my money, Google Assistant is the fastest, most reliable, and overall best digital assistant out there. So, when I started building my smart home, the decision of which assistant to build it on was an easy one.
Nine times out of 10, when I issue a voice command, my smart home does exactly what I want. When I say, “Hey Google, turn on the bedroom lights,” the bedroom lights come on almost instantaneously. I use the Philips Hue system, so I can even say things like “set the lights to 25%” if they are too bright, or even “turn the bedroom lights yellow” if I feel like my head is hurting from the cold coloring. It’s great.
In fact, there are probably so many other voice commands I could use in relation to my lights. The problem is that I don’t know any because Google doesn’t make it simple for me to find them — that’s incredibly frustrating.
Do you want a list of Google Home voice commands in the app?
Now, before you rush to the comments to tell me all about this very helpful page from Philips, let me clarify what the problem is, why it’s frustrating, and what Google can do to fix it.
Google Home voice commands: You need to hunt
If someone had just set up their smart home and you asked them where they could find a list of voice commands to use for a certain product, where do you think they would go? I think most people would open the Google Home app and long-press on one of the tiles. They might expect to need to hit another button when they get in there, but that’s the first place they’d probably look — I know that’s where I first went.
However, you won’t find anything there. If a manufacturer has provided a list to Google, you’ll need to follow this six-step sequence in the Google Home app:
- Open the Home app
- Tap your avatar
- Tap Assistant settings
- Scroll down and tap Explore
- Search for the brand of your smart device and tap it
- Scroll to see a list of voice commands, if any.
That is not very intuitive. Also, the list you find there might be incomplete. For example, Philips only shows 13 commands, even though we know there are so many more than that. Wemo by Belkin just lists four commands, which barely scratches the surface.
Some voice commands might be visible, but they're buried four levels deep in the most obscure places.
Smart home device makers sometimes have their own websites with this information, as Philips does. That also involves hunting, though, as you need to leave the Home app entirely and seek it out with a Google search. Again, not an ideal workaround.
Why is Google hiding this information? Why isn’t it front and center within the controls of every smart home product in your Google Home dashboard?
Just give me a list in the Home app!
Since we don’t know all the available Google Home voice commands for a product, we tend to just try stuff out. For example, you might want to ask your new robot vacuum to pause. Intuitively, you might say, “Hey Google, pause cleaning.” However, depending on your product, that might not work. Google Assistant might respond with the dreaded, “I can’t help with that right now.”
Frustrated, you might go to the Google Home app to figure out what’s wrong. Of course, you won’t find the appropriate list of commands in the spot you’d expect. Eventually, though, you’d find a list of commands and realize that you need to specifically say “pause the vacuum” instead of “pause cleaning.” So frustrating. Even more so when you know that both “start/stop the vacuum” and “start/stop cleaning” commands work.
No one knows all the available voice commands for a product, so why doesn't Google make it easy to find them?
This is why a comprehensive list of voice commands right in the Home app in a place you’d expect them to be is so vital. It would take all the guesswork and frustration out of using voice commands. This, in turn, will make people enjoy using their smart homes more. That helps users buy more products and stay within the Google ecosystem, which is what Google obviously wants. It is in everyone’s best interest for voice commands to be front and center in the Home app.
So Google, if you’re reading this, please help us out here. Your smart home app isn’t complete without simple and direct access to this vital information.