Journalist and broadcaster

Inside the “OK Google House in London”

google house

We’ve all heard about the internet of things and how our homes are going to get smarter, but its it possible to make the technology we already have work harder for us and integrate into our daily lives?

Google, the folks behind the Android operating system have a show home in London city centre which takes the technology within a series of their apps and demonstrates just how much we can do from our phones and tablets.

The ‘OK Google’ House consists of five rooms and in order to gain access to the next room, the visitor must complete a series of challenges. The only tool they can use is the voice activated technology on an Android smart-phone. Emily Clarke of Google explains:

“This is an interactive experience which hopes to show how Google technology is changing the way we live and work. Typing on our phones is great, but it can also be cumbersome. As we become more and more reliant on our phones, we want to make the search easier. Being able to do that by saying “Ok Google” and asking your question is a much more natural way to search”.

So, how does it work?

By downloading a series of apps, which are available on Android and iOS, users can access Google’s best offerings. The apps are: Google, Google Translate, Google Camera and Google Drive.

The Google app has a small mic icon on the side which can be tapped or the user can simply say “OK Google” to activate. The phone listens out for those words and then jumps into action. Users can then dictate to their phone – either a question for Google search or a command. Commands such as setting an alarm, a reminder or sending a text work really well via the app.

Some of the issues with voice activated technology in the past was the poor standard of word recognition. The likes of Siri was built with an American accent in mind and it sometimes struggles with Irish accents, words and place names. Having played around with app quite a bit it seems to be well adapted to the Irish accent.

It’s also now possible to ask your phone for directions from A to B and to “beam” this information to a friend via NFC (if you are next to each other).

One of the first challenges within the ‘OK Google’ House is to buy an umbrella in Chinese, using Google Translate. Within the app there are a few options for getting the information. The first option, which is extremely useful is making the phone ‘read’ foreign text. By directing the camera of the phone and some text and highlighting the relevant portion with a finger, the app translates the text. It’s a painless and quick turnaround. The only flaw found with this is that the angle at which the image is captured matters. For the best results, take the image dead straight in front of the text. Another option is to dictate what you want translated and the phone with then produce an audible translation in the language you require.

Google Camera is good, but isn’t a “must have”, while Google Docs is excellent for work and photos. All apps are free.

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