OK Google, let's get personal

US users get speaker recognition with new update

A hotly anticipated upgrade to Google Home will let users train the company’s virtual assistant to recognize different voices and provide personalized responses to each person.

When users set up speaker recognition, their Home devices will ask that they say “OK Google” and “Hey Google” two times each. Whenever someone uses one of those phrases in the future to ask the Google Assistant a question, the Home device being addressed will check to see if that person is one of its recognized conversation partners.

That means two different people in the same household can each log into a Google Home device and set it up with their calendars and other preferences.

The move will help differentiate Google Home from Amazon’s Echo, which can’t do the same thing yet. Both companies are locked in a tight battle to capture users for their virtual assistant speakers, and there’s not a clear winner thus far (in part because sales of both devices have been constrained to English-speaking countries).

A Home device can recognize up to six different users, which should be enough for most households. Setting up recognized users requires that people log into the speakers using Google’s Home app for iOS and Android. The system supports logging multiple users into the same speaker through the same phone or multiple phones, so long as they’re all on the same Wi-Fi network as the Home device being set up.

Those people who aren’t recognized users can still ask questions of the Home device, but it won’t respond to more personal queries about things like users’ calendar data. This feature notably wouldn’t have stopped the Burger King ad that hijacked users’ Home speakers and get them spouting off about the fast food chain’s hamburgers.

It’s also important to note that there’s currently no functionality in place to kick people off a Home device that they’ve logged into. It’s unclear if Google has any plans to implement that functionality in the future.

The functionality is currently only available to users in the U.S., but Google said that it plans to expand user recognition to the U.K. in the coming months.

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Blair Hanley Frank

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