Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

November 24, 2017
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Google comes Home

Win your very own voice-activated assistant

The latest electronic gadget for those who like to be in the vanguard is the voice-activated personal assistant. The device sits on a kitchen counter or convenient table in another room and is ever-ready to act on your voice commands. For these purposes I'm looking at Google Home. You may also be familiar with Echo offered by Amazon, but it's not currently available in Canada. In any case, Home works in a similar way to voice-commands on your computer or smartphone, and is compatible with both IOS and Android operating systems.

Perhaps the most popular use of this device is to call up music from a streaming service. Google Home can access a variety of services, including Google Play, YouTube and Spotify. It does not stream Apple Music which is, after all, a direct competitor with Google Play.

The sound quality is fine, if not exactly stunning. It's not up to high-end systems like the ones offered by Pickering's NAD BluOS and the Sonos but, at the price, it's acceptable. Google is working with the CBC, Global, Sportsnet and The Weather Network to bring them to Home.

But that's only the start, using the command "Okay Google," you can ask any question you like and it will go scurrying to the net to find the answer. Unlike Amazon's device which confines its search to Wikipedia, Home searches far and wide. This can be especially useful when looking for podcasts, for example.

It will also allow you to use voice commands to operate the Internet of Things (IoT). It's great, for instance, at operating the Philips Hue Smart Lights featured in an earlier Gadgets column. Google's Nest products are a natural, naturally, as are SmartThings devices from Samsung, LIFX's lightbulbs and Toronto-based Nanoleaf's products.

Overall, Google Home gets better reviews than the Amazon series of similar products so Canadians shouldn't feel too bad about being ignored for the time being. A couple of cons: Home, with it's two microphones (Amazon's Echo has five), can sometimes have trouble hearing commands if you're too far from the device and at present they can be programmed only to work with a single specific voice. Multiple voice machines are coming, but for the moment, only one person in a household can call the shots – that may be a good thing. Available from Walmart.ca or BestBuy.ca for just under $150.

Contest

Win a Google Home by entering the Gadget of the Month contest here.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

Comments

Showing 4 comments

  1. On November 1, 2017, Greg Patey said:
    Love technology!
  2. On November 2, 2017, NM said:
    :)
  3. On November 8, 2017, Michele Moss said:
    I wonder if Google Home would understand me better than Siri does. I have a South African accent and Siri does not understand me, no matter how much I talk to her!
  4. On November 23, 2017, Jack Kooy said:
    As a techno-phobe doctor this would make my life easier!

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