Hey Google, what is in the box?
There are a few coloured, square cards that make up the instructions and below them is the Google Home Mini. Once out of the box, it is the size of a 99p MacDonald’s burger, but trust me it looks a lot better. The top half is covered in cloth. It has 4 coloured lights below the surface centre and there are touch sensitive sides for turning the volume up or down.
There is a white 1.5m cable with a standard UK plug on one end and a Micro USB on the other end. At the back of the Home Mini in the USB power port and a switch to turn off the microphone. The bottom has an orange coating, which makes it grip to any surface. It is small and sexy. I went with the grey covered cloth with the white base, but there was also a black one and and funky orange model.
Hey Google, how does the Google Home Mini work?
At its heart is a wireless speaker with a powerful built-in microphone, which activates when one says “Hey Google” or “Ok Google“, followed by an instruction. There is no need to shout or change your voice tone as the microphone is very sensitive. I have been able to whisper and it has picked up my instructions perfectly. It uses Google Assistant to perform the tasks, which it performs really well under most conditions.
It can set up simple calendars, add reminders for just about anything, find out about the latest weather reports in my area or anywhere else, call up the latest news from any news media outlet online. It can also be used to play songs from various services such as Spotify, Google Play Music, YouTube, TuneIn, Pandora and one can literally ask it anything that would normally be searched on Google.
Jo and I have been putting it to the test with all sorts of requests and it has performed magnificently. It can be quite funny sometimes, for example when asked “Hey Google, what would you like to be called?“, it replied “Assistant, Google Assistant“.
Hey Google, what are Philips Hue wireless LED lights?
Eighteen months ago I bought into the Philips Hue ecosystem, the wireless LED lights that can be controlled with a smartphone, tablet or PC. I kitted out the whole house with these lights bulbs. They are so amazing. Some rooms have dimmable light bulbs that have 16 million colours and can be changed to any colour to suit your mood, while others are dimmable white only bulbs.
We hardly ever have our lights on full anymore because there is no need. The lights can be set to timers, or they can come on automatically at sunrise or sunset, or we can switch them to holiday or away mode, where they come on at random times of the day to simulate someone being at home. The possibilities are endless.
Hey Google, can Samsung Smartthings home automation controls Philips Hue Lights?
I also bought into the Samsung Smartthings ecosystem, the home automation kit that offer door sensors, programmable plugs and motion sensors. It is possible to program everything via an intuitive smartphone app. Multiple rooms can be setup along with multiple things (devices such as light bulbs, motion sensors, multi-purpose sensors, plugs, alarms, heating, video cameras etc.) and then scheduled to switch on/off at certain times or based on certain criteria.
For example, if the front door is opened between 7:15pm and 8:00pm, the light in the lounge will automatically turn on, and when the door is closed the light will stay on provided there is motion in the room, else it will turn off after 30 seconds.
Another example. If we wander into our spare room late at night, the overhead light automatically comes on, and is dimmed to 10%, just enough to see where one is walking. It stays on for 2 minutes and then switches off automatically when it detects no motion.
The beauty of the Samsung Smartthings ecosystem is that it works with hundreds of other home automation kits by multiple brand names and one can mix and match. As long as they use Zigbee or Z-Wave protocol, the devices can talk to each other.
Hey Google, where does the Google Home Mini fit into all of this home automation?
- “Hey Google, turn on the light in the main bedroom“.
- “Hey Google, play Bon Jovi livin’ on a prayer on YouTube on my TV in the lounge“.
- “Hey Google, dim the bedroom lamp to 30%, set the colour to light red and play some romantic songs on the speaker”.
- “Hey Google, set the top stairs light to come on at 7:15pm tomorrow night”.
- “Hey Google, play Radio 5 live on the speaker in the spare room, and set the volume to 40%”.
- “Hey Google, set the alarm to active in Zone 1″.
- “Hey Google, switch off all lights”.
One of the great features of the Google Home Mini is that it can distinguish between 6 different voices, so if one had a large family, each person could have a personal assistant for themselves. If I asked “Hey Google, call my Mom”, it would know to call my Mom, and if Jo asked it to call her Mom, it would look in her address book and call her Mom. Here are the areas your Assistant can help you out.
Ideally one needs at least two Google Home Mini, one for upstairs and one for downstairs. Fortunately they are not expensive. At £34 one is getting a truly amazing device that doubles as a wireless speaker. Sound output is pretty impressive, better than most Bluetooth speakers. Any music app that allows casting will work on it, which is great because one can select a playlist on a mobile and stream directly to it. If you have any of the wireless lighting or home automation kits then this device is a must have. I highly recommend the Google Home Mini.