Here’s a fascinating experiment on its smart displays that Google kicks around: voice-command input without a hot word. Jan Boromeusz, a Nest Home hacker who has an established track record of scoring early smart display features before they are released, updates a video describing the feature on Youtube.
The Nest Hub Max of Boromeusz is somehow in “Dogfood” mode, which means it receives early, non-public builds of the smart display program intended only for Google’s internal use.
A “Dog Food features” special menu lists a “Blue Steel” feature that allows the device to respond to commands without first having to say the “Hey Google” hotword. You just say a command and it will respond.
Boromeusz says that after “detecting presence,” the computer will listen for commands, so if anyone is in front of the display, it will only begin answering questions.
The voice command hardware from Google listens all the time today, but only for the “Hey Google” hotword. Once that’s detected, additional commands will begin processing. The more modern implementations also use the hotword as the cutoff point for connecting to the Internet, locally processing
“Hey, Google” detection and everything will be uploaded, processed, and stored on Google’s servers after that. The word also functions as a form of consent, It would be frustrating not only to have the following words uploaded to the Internet but also because it would be tedious to make the system listen all the time and respond to any single thing that could be interpreted as an order.
Blue Steel Feature :
For the Blue Steel feature, it is not clear how “presence” is detected. On the front of the Home Hub Max, there is a camera slap, which is used for a “Face Match” feature that can recognize a user.
‘Blue Steel’ is about making a smile for the camera if you really want to read too much into the Zoolander-inspired codename. However, the smaller Nest Hub does not have a front camera, so across the Nest Hub / Home Hub line, this wouldn’t be very scalable.
Not to mention that if this kind was needed by Google wanted the norm to be this form of interaction, and it would probably also want it to function on smart speakers.
Ultrasonic Sensing :
Google now has Ultrasonic Sensing, a more scalable presence-detection function at its disposal.
This is sonar: the speaker’s pump out inaudible sound from an object that has passed in front of the system and records any bounceback.
With a microphone and speakers, which would be portable across the entire smart display and smart speaker line, the sonar-based individual detection would likely work on something.
For now, we should emphasize that Google is only testing this feature, and our data is from a leaked, internal construction that Google never wanted to reveal to the public.
There are no signs that Blue Steel will soon begin rolling out to consumer devices. It would be completely crucial to get the balance correct on anything like this and the difference between “quick and useful” or “annoying and intrusive” would be.
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