These are the coolest things you can do with Google Home

The Google Assistant can do everything from tell you about the day's weather forecast to streaming video and turning off the lights.

google home at rest
Credit: Derek Walter
Make Google your home companion

Google Home promises to one-up the Amazon Echo through its tight integration with Google services. It's the perfect desk-side comapnion to those who live in Google's world, as some simple voice commands allow you to unlock a ton of information or get your smart devices to perform many different actions. It's the closest we'll get to using magic incantations to make objects around us obey.

There's a pretty long list of what you're able to do with Google Home. Here's a list of the most powerful and useful commands that probably ought to be a part of your daily usage. And Google is just getting started, so don't be surprised if that always-listening vase-looking thing gets smarter and more capable over time.

stream music home
Stream music

If nothing else, Google Home makes for an decent speaker. But it’s a much smarter one than the Bluetooth set of speakers that may reside at the end of your desk. You can use the Google Cast function to stream Play Music, Spotify, or other Cast-enabled apps right to your Home device. 

Even better, you don’t have to touch your phone again. Just tap the top of Home to pause, and once again to restart the music. 

desktop cast
Replace your desktop speakers

Google Cast is now built directly into the Chrome browser. That integration means you ought to put it to use for your next music section or podcast, particularly if you don’t have that good of a set of speakers.

When you hit the cast button, look for your Home device (it’s worth giving it a distinct name if you have more than one or numerous Cast-enables hardware). 

call your phone
Find your phone

The power of IFTTT is essential for making your Google Home even more powerful. One of the most practical uses is tracking down your phone if you’ve misplaced it in the house. With this recipe, just tell your Google Home to find your phone and then it will place a phone call.

You’ll need to verify your number and jump through a couple of other steps when you first make the connection. But it’s worth doing, and one of the many clever IFTTT integrations for Google Home.

lights color
Lights on, lights off

One of the many promises of Google Home is that it will be the voice-controlled hub for all of your smart devices. That includes changing the color of your lights, turning them on, and of course shutting things down for the night. There are multiple IFTTT recipes for lights, including a very simple ”OK Google, good night” for when you’re headed off to bed. That command works specifically with LIFX, although my expecation is that more integration will come over time.

Of course, if you have Phillips Hue bulbs, they can interface directly with Home. No IFTTT recipe required.

google home
Credit: Derek Walter
Touch for what you want

You don’t need to only use your voice to control Google Home. The top of your talking helper has some hidden commands. Tap once to awaken your Google Home or to pause and un-pause a broadcast. Also, if you slide your finger to the side a circle will light up indicating the volume. It’s sometimes a faster way to perform these functions instead of yelling them out with your voice. Since Home is directly built and controlled by Google, I woulnd’t be surprised if future software updates add more touch commands.

google home answer on another device 2
Credit: Jon Philips
Say hey

In the interest of saving you every syllable possible, you can now awaken your Google Home with, “Hey Google” along with “OK Google.” It only works with Home, so it’s a nice way to distinguish which device you’re talking to. If you have an Android Wear watch, smartphone, and Home all in the room the airspace it can get pretty crowded. The “Hey Google” is officially a beta implementation, so we’ll let you know if at some point it stops working.

google assistant shopping
Your shopping companion

If you put your Google Home anywhere near the kitchen, it can greatly simplify your life when it comes to compiling the shopping list.

The Google Assistant will create a seperate note in Keep labeled “Google Assistant shopping list.” Any time you need to add items you can just tell your Home “OK Google add milk to my shopping list” and it will appear there. You can finally ditch the pen and paper, which you’re probably bound to lose anyway.

google assistant nest
The best friend for your Nest

Not surprisngly Google Home works swimmingly with the company’s Nest line. As indicated by the example, you can say, “OK Google set temperature to...” and then name your preference. Such integration with other platforms would be welcome, but if you’ve thought of going for a smarter home you can’t go wrong with Nest.

Be sure to check out the other Nest integrations that are available, and watch for more to come from Home.

home music
Connect your music

Don’t overlook the need to set up access to your favorite services. In the Google Home setup proces and in the settings you can go in and link your subscriptions. This way you can say “OK Google, play...” and then name your favorite playlist or music for a certain mood. It’ll then come straight from your Spotify subscription or another account.

Even better, the music keeps playing without the need to touch your phone. Just tap the top of home to pause, or say “OK Google stop” to make things quiet again.

google home answer on another device 2
Credit: Jon Philips
Fun with Chromecast

Your Google Home is designed to create a remote control-free television viewing experience. If you have a Chromecast, you can issue several commands to play video on your TV. For example, you can ask for specific videos or tell the program to pause, stop, or skip ahead. 

My setup process was a little wonky, requiring a restart of the Chromecast to get everything talking to one another. However this was during the evaluation period, so your experience may be smoother.

my day
Get traffic conditions

As you frantically scurry about your house in the morning while getting ready there’s probably one thing on your mind: the traffic.

Google Home can help by spitting out conditions that will either give you reason for hope or make you think it’s best to hop back into bed. To set this up, add your home and work locations inside of the Google Home app. You can also customize what you hear when asking “tell me about my day.” This information can include any reminders you’ve set or your next meeting in Google Calendar.

google calendar
Block out some time

Here’s an IFTTT recipe that will make you feel like you truly have a personal assistant. If things are getting busy or you want to add in a new appointment, you can tell Google to block out some time on your calendar.

You’ll then be able to add in details about the appointment. This type of recipe shows how Home can really be an essential tool for integrating with other Google services, and I imagine that as developers get more involved that additional work will come down the line.

news
All the news that's fit to play

Radio isn’t dead. It’s just changed, and one element of that future is evident with Google Home. Use the Google Assistant app to pick the type of broadcasts you want to hear. You can ask for them by name or just say, “OK Google play me news” and your Home will run through the list. 

To end the broadcast, say “OK Google stop” or tap on the top of the Home.

google home alarm
Credit: Derek Walter
Set an alarm

You don’t have to be a disciple of the Pomodoro Technique to find value in setting an alarm to finish certain tasks. I do the same, as it helps me stay focused on an article, spreadsheet, or another task instead of looking at the dumpster fire of social media.

The command here is simple: “OK Google, set an alarm for 5 minutes” or whichever time you prefer. You’ll hear a pleasant sound and see a circle of lights on the top of Google Home when the alarm goes off.

google home pin
Share your Home

Sharing is caring. And the same principle applies to Google Home, as you’re able to share the connection to anyone, even if they’re not on your Wi-Fi network.

To do so, Home will emit a four-digit PIN through an audio tone. Your guest will need to fire up the Google Home app and then add in the code when prompted. They’ll then be able to issue voice commands and ask questions. I’ve found in use that Home responds to other voices just fine, but this is a cool trick that might be worth trying out.