Google is testing smart speakers feature that would remove wake word requirement

midian182

Posts: 6,170   +51
Staff member
A hot potato: It's becoming increasingly difficult to find a home without any smart speakers or displays, and that proliferation has brought more privacy concerns. Following revelations that Google is working on a feature that removes the need for a wake word, those fears will likely intensify.

As reported by Android Central, the feature is currently being tested internally. It was discovered by Nest Home hacker Jan Boromeusz, whose Nest Hub Max smart display is running in a "DogFood" mode that allows it to receive non-public builds of software meant for internal use at Google only.

The functionality goes by the codename Blue Steel—some Zoolander fans at Google, it seems. The option allows Boromeusz to speak commands, such as asking for the weather, without saying the "Hey Google" wake word first.

It's likely Blue Steel makes use of the Nest Hub Max's ultrasound sensing technology that sends out ultrasonic pulses to detect if anyone is nearby. Ars Technica speculates it could also utilize the front-facing camera, which its "face match" feature uses for identification purposes—having to look at a camera could explain the codename. The smaller Nest Hub doesn't have a front camera, but the ultrasound sensing could possibly work across other devices, including smart speakers.

Not having to continually yell wake words with the potential to be misheard will be seen as a convenience by many, but the privacy implications are obvious. There's no mention of when, or even if, Google will roll out this feature, and at least its activation appears optional.

Image credit: stocksre

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Mister_K

Posts: 1,979   +632
It does get a little much constantly saying "Ok Google". Can't wait for the day when I can speak to my personal assistant like Tony Stark. Honestly, it will make life so much easier.
 

MarkHughes

Posts: 245   +166
It does get a little much constantly saying "Ok Google". Can't wait for the day when I can speak to my personal assistant like Tony Stark. Honestly, it will make life so much easier.
What do you use it for if you don't mind saying ? I have struggled to find a good use for them, Maybe I am missing something but with Google and Cortana I just seem to be struggling to find the purpose in them.
 
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captaincranky

Posts: 16,209   +4,970
So suppose you fart? Maybe it will say something like a Cylon centurion, perhaps, "by your command"?

Or say, release a squirt of Glade without prompting...
 
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Mister_K

Posts: 1,979   +632
What do you use it for if you don't mind saying ? I have struggled to find a good use for them, Maybe I am missing something but with Google and Cortana I just seem to be struggling to find the purpose in them.
Loads of things. I hate typing on the phone so if I can achieve something quickly without doing the pickup > unlock > type then I will.

  • Setting reminders (events, alarms for sleeping, cooking etc)
  • Toggling lights on and off for hues (got the home mini, free from Spotify)
    • Checking weather/wind speed for when I am filming / droning.
    • Setting Maps for home/work/X locations
    • Fact checking if I am lazy typing

All relatively boring stuff, nothing exciting.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,684   +959
I just want to be able to call it what I want. That's it. I still want it to have a wake-word, I just don't want to have to call out a corporation's name every time I use the device.