Is Google Home Ready for Your Family?

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Google seems to think we live lonely lives. As it positions its Google Home as a flexible virtual assistant, it doesn't seem to know what to do if a Google home is full of different people with different tastes. This is especially key for Google, because its Assistant is dependent on assembling a profile of your lifestyle and desires based on your Google account.

Yes, that's creepy; the idea that Google is surveilling you so intensely that it's constructing a profile of all of your tastes and preferences. But that's what it's doing. If you don't like it, don't buy a Google Home. Also, probably don't use Gmail.

Setting that aside, at our house, we have three people with different tastes and opinions on things. We have different to-do lists and different sets of reminders, sure, but the more you get into the "intelligent assistant" world, the more answers are going to become different based on preferences.

Take the ubiquitous "traffic to work" query that these assistants always like to show in their demos. Most American households have two people in them who go to work at different times, at different places. But that's just the least subtle tip of the iceberg. A smart assistant with knowledge of TV preferences, for instance, could deal with the query "put something on TV that's the next episode of something I was watching." My daughter doesn't want to unwind with Person of Interest, and Steven Universe is not my first choice in entertainment. It's good and all, just not my first choice.

That said, folks in a single household shouldn't have their libraries and preferences held completely separate. If my daughter asks me to buy Steven Universe, I shouldn't have to worry about adding a payment method to her account. Google, Amazon, and Apple all have family sharing options on most of their products to solve this problem.

Amazon allows multiple accounts on its Echo virtual-assistant products. Just say "switch accounts," and it'll change who it thinks is talking to Alexa. But Google confirmed that Google Home will only work with one account:

This seems to be an early product issue. Google solved the multiple-accounts problem on Android in 2012. Since Google Home isn't coming out until November, hopefully it'll be solved by then.

The Echo's "switch account" command is a little clumsy, true. Ideally, these voice interfaces should be able to tell the difference between the voices of different people in a household, and it would surprise me if that's not possible given the Skynet level of cloud computing going on at both Google and Amazon.

And once you have a family set up, there are more interesting things Google Home could do. For instance, I could ask Google Home how many hours my daughter has spent watching Chromecast over the past week, and to tell me when that goes past 10 hours. Or my wife could leave a note for when I get home, that only I could hear.

Google Home is going to need some sort of multiple-user function if it's going to be a working intelligent assistant in a family context. Hopefully, it'll come by launch.

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