Using Digital Assistants Siri Alexa Google

Listen in as Ricky Enger and the Hadley Tech It Out community ask questions and discuss their experiences with digital assistants, like Alexa, Siri and Google.

December 4, 2018

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Audio Transcript


Tech it Out: Alexa Siri and Google Home

Date: 12-4-2018

Ricky Enger: Hello and welcome everyone to the third Tech it Out for December. It's the special holiday edition. Why is it the special holiday edition? Maybe no particular reason except that we are having it in December and also we might just be talking about some things that would be great presents for a loved one or, hey, maybe for yourself as well. Why not?

My name is Ricky Enger and I will be your host. I am a learning expert in assistive technology at Hadley and every month we come together with Tech it Out to explore a selected topic and just give some general information on that topic, and then open it up for the community to share in that, either to share resources or to ask questions and just exchange information. It's always a good time and I am so very happy to be here.

Let's actually dive right into the reason that we're here. This month, our discussion is on smart assistance. These are the lovely little speakers or devices that we can talk to and make them do our bidding and feel all great and stuff, at least about some things. Now, I don't think that they're going to take over the world just yet. There are some things that they're not necessarily super smart about but there are some things that they are really, really good at and we will find out what each of those things are during this presentation.

Now, I was thinking about this as I was putting the program together and figuring out what I wanted to talk about and what I wanted to cover. Some of you are coming to this brand new and are not familiar with, what are these smart digital assistants? How do they work? What do they do? Totally new to this and so for you, we obviously want to let you in on the secrets and let you figure out just what all of these things do and how they can enrich your lives.

For some of you, you already have at least one of these assistants. If you do, you understand one fundamental fact about them and that is you have to wake them up. In order to do that, there is something that we call the wake word or the wake phrase. Rather than the assistant just listening passively to you, it needs to be able to pick out this wake word or wake phrase and know when you're speaking directly to the assistant. The challenge is how do you talk about these assistants without naming them and setting off everyone's assistant who owns one already? You will forgive me for using really cheesy, or really creative depending on how kind you're being, methods to not mention the names of these assistants during the program.

We're going to talk about three of them. That doesn't mean that there are only three but we're going to concentrate on three and then, of course, when the questions open up and perhaps you have a question about Cortana or the like, that is a smart assistant as well and we'll be happy to talk about that. For now though, we're going to focus on Siri. We're also going to focus on Google, and last we're going to focus on Amazon's assistant, which we'll call Alex with an A for now. Those are the three things that we're covering.

What I'd like to do before we really get down to the nitty gritty is I've got about a nine-minute presentation that is prerecorded where I take these assistants through their paces and just give you an idea of how they can accomplish some of the, I won't say simple tasks, but some of the things that you might think of when you're thinking, "What can an assistant do for me?" I will play that now and then expand on some of the things that we hear.

What kinds of things would we like our smart assistants to do? Maybe simple things like, check the weather. Hey Siri, what's the weather like today?

Siri: It's currently partly cloudy and 66 degrees in Charlotte.

Ricky Enger: ... what's the weather today?

Alexa: Right now in Charlotte, it's 67 degrees fahrenheit with partly sunny skies. Throughout the day you can expect more of the same, with a high of 67 degrees and a low of 38 degrees.

Ricky Enger: Hey ... what's the weather like today?

Speaker 4: Today in Charlotte it will be partly cloudy with a forecasted high of 67 and a low of 39.

Ricky Enger: We can also do things like set reminders for ourselves. Hey Siri, remind me to get K-Cups at 3:00pm.

Siri: Okay, I add get K-Cups to your reminders for today at 3:00 PM.

Ricky Enger: Hey ... remind me to get K-Cups at three o'clock.

Speaker 4: Okay, I'll remind you at 3:00pm.

Ricky Enger: ... remind me to order K-Cups at three o'clock.

Alexa: Okay, I'll remind you at 3:00pm.

Ricky Enger: Okay, so let's play some music. Hey ... play some holiday tunes.

Speaker 4: Okay, here are some songs.


Ricky Enger: Hey Siri, play some holiday tunes.

Siri: You don't have any holiday music.

Ricky Enger: What a scrooge, just because I'm not subscribed to Apple music.

... play some holiday tunes.

Alexa: The station Holiday Favorites on Amazon Music.


Ricky Enger: How about some podcasts. Hey ... play the Blind Bargains Cast podcast.

Speaker 4: Sure. Here's the latest episode of Blind Bargains audio, featuring the BBQAST technology news, interviews and more, Blind Bargains QAST 166, Talking Shields.


Ricky Enger: ... play the Blind Bargains podcast.

Alexa: Getting the latest episode of Blind Bargains audio. Here it is from Tune In.


Ricky Enger: Hey, Siri. Play the Blind Bargains podcast.

Siri: Now playing podcast Blind Bargains audio featuring the BB cast, technology news, interviews and more.


Ricky Enger: What about more complex things? Can my assistant buy something for me?

Hey, Siri. Order K-Cups.

Siri: One option nearby is Hong Kong Bakery on East Independence Boulevard. Want to try that one?

Ricky Enger: No.

Hey ... order K-Cups.

Speaker 4: Sure, K-Cups but first do you want a quick run-through of how this works?

Ricky Enger: ... order K-Cups.

Alexa: One moment. Here's what I found. Based on your order history, I found San Francisco Bay one cup coffee, French roast, 80 count. It's $34.49.

Ricky Enger: Can my assistant change the temperature in my home?

Hey ... set the temperature to 72 degrees.

Speaker 4: You got it. Setting the hallway to 72 degrees.

Ricky Enger: Hey ... what's the temperature in the hallway?

Speaker 4: Heating is set to 72 with a current temperature of 74.

Ricky Enger: Hey, Siri. Set the temperature to 72 degrees.

Siri: It looks like you haven't set up any home kit accessories. You can connect smart devices like lights, locks and thermostats in the home map.

Ricky Enger: Unless you have a Google nest thermostat, which we don't work with because we hate Google right now.

... set the temperature in the hallway to 72 degrees.

Alexa: I didn't find any smart home devices under Ricky's account. To get started, go to the smart home section of the Alexa app.

Ricky Enger: Can my assistant make me smarter, like maybe define a word for me?

Hey ... define perspicacious.

Speaker 4: Here's the definition of perspicacious. Having a ready insight into an understanding of things.

Ricky Enger: ... define perspicacious.

Alexa: Perspicacious is usually defined as acutely insightful and wise.

Ricky Enger: Hey, Siri. Define perspicacious.

Siri: Perspicacious means having a ready insight into an understanding of things.

Ricky Enger: Sometimes I've never heard a thing before and I wonder what it sounds like. Can my assistant help with that?

Hey ... what does a reindeer sound like?

Speaker 4: This is a reindeer.

Ricky Enger: ... what does a reindeer sound like?

Alexa: I'm still learning certain sounds. I'll share them with you as soon as I can.

Ricky Enger: Hey, Siri. What does a reindeer sound like?

Siri: I found something on the web about what does a reindeer sound like. Check it out.

Ricky Enger: Hey, sometimes I like to have fun. Can my assistant play games.

Hey, Siri. Let's play Madlibs.

Siri: I couldn't find Madlib in your music.

Ricky Enger: Hey ... let's play Madlibs.

Speaker 4: Awesome. It's story time.


This is Madlibs, the world's greatest world game. I'll ask for some words and we'll make a story. Want to try my holiday Madlib?

Ricky Enger: ... let's play Madlibs.

Alexa: Welcome to Madlibs, the world's greatest word game. Would you like to start a Madlib?

Ricky Enger: All that gaming made me thirsty. I wonder if I can whip up something yummy to drink.

Hey ... give me a recipe for eggnog.

Speaker 4: Okay. I've got a recipe called Homemade Eggnog from Taste of Home. Does that sound good?

Ricky Enger: Yes.

Speaker 4: Great. Let's get started. Would you like to prepare the ingredients or skip to the instructions?

Ricky Enger: Ingredients.

Speaker 4: There are eight ingredients. I'll read them one by one. Let me know when you're ready for the next ingredient. The first ingredient is 12 large eggs.

Ricky Enger: Next.

Speaker 4: The second ingredient is one minus one half cups sugar.

Ricky Enger: ... give me a recipe for eggnog.

Alexa: Okay, for eggnog here's a few recipes. Eggnog, eggless nog, pumpkin nog, vegan pumpkin nog and lots more.

Ricky Enger: Hey, Siri. Give me a recipe for eggnog.

Siri: I found something on the web about give me a recipe for eggnog. Check it out.

Automated: End of ...

Ricky Enger: Okay.

What kinds of things would we like...

We would mainly like not to start that presentation over again so technical difficulties aside. What we discovered there was that each of these assistants, number one, kind of has their own personality, right? Number two, have some things that they're great at and some things that maybe not so much. Let's take Siri, for example. Siri is really good at doing things for productivity like, say, adding things to your calendar, reminders, even looking up where is the nearest Best Buy, for example. You can do that with Siri and not really have any issues. You can play music with Siri, certainly, if you either have music in your iTunes library or if you're subscribed to a service that Siri supports.

The cool thing about Siri is that you'll notice I didn't have to do anything weird about Siri. I could just say, "Siri," or specifically, "Hey, Siri," and she'll go off now. I could say that and she would respond. The reason that she can do that and that I don't have to be careful what I say in terms of Siri's wake word is that, "Hey, Siri," is specifically keyed to your voice. If you're setting up Siri as an assistant, then it's only going to be paying attention and listening for your voice so somebody can't come in the room, unless they can do a really good impression of you, and say, "Siri," and it would respond to them. That's one nice thing about Siri.

Couple of things Siri wasn't so great at, looking up some information. For example, the example I gave was getting a recipe, right? Siri can sort of do that but what happens is Siri is assuming, and rightly so in most cases, that you're using it from a phone or a tablet that you're actually interacting with. Siri can say, "I found something on the web about give me a recipe for eggnog," and it's going to show you the website that it found and expect you to then interact with it whereas Google and the Amazon one, which I can't say, will actually give you either step by step instructions in the case of Google or in the case of Alexa, you'll be able to choose from a few of them and take a look.

That's Siri. Really great at productivity. (If you ever have questions about bands or who starred in that old movie that's playing on TV, Siri is going to be able to give you that information no problem because it's really good at looking up things that, go figure, are found in iTunes so Apple selling some of these entertainment things like music and movies.) They have this repository of data that they can pull from when it comes to questions like that. Those are some things that Siri is good at and perhaps not so good.

How about Google? Google is all about the data. (Google wants your data, of course, and Google has a lot of data as a very, very large primarily began as a search engine so their job is to collect data and compile it into something that can be pulled from as needed.) Whenever you have a question, like you wanted to know what a particular animal sounded like. We can get Google to calculate math problems. We can also ask Google about some of these entertainment questions and the like. It may not be as quick to respond as Siri was.

It's all in what the assistant was designed to do and the company that's making the assistant. (Apple cares about what we want you to buy our devices and we would like it if you would purchase things on iTunes and have a giant iTunes library.) That's kind of what we're about. Google is we want your data. We have a bunch of data and we want more data. Amazon wants to sell you things. Now, Google, as we heard in the example, you are able to order K-Cups but it gives you multiple options for ordering them and had we continued down that path, we would've seen we can get them from various vendors like Walmart and different things that Google has access to.

For Amazon, what is Amazon doing? Again, Amazon wants you inside their ecosystem and Amazon kind of would like to sell you some things from Amazon. The cool thing about this, Alex with an A, is that you can ask her to order things from you and she's going to look at your personal Amazon order history first and recommend things that you've already bought before and make it super easy for you to just say, "Order whatever," and she responds, "Okay. Whatever. That's going to be shipped to you in a couple of days." That is the part of the process where Amazon really wants to shine.

Google and Amazon also like to play games. They want to be seen as kind of the cool assistants. Hey, you can have fun with us, right? There are a ton of games that you can play on either of these assistants. I think Siri has a couple of games as well. You can certainly ask Siri to tell you a joke and you might try that at some point but that's a nice thing about Google and Amazon specifically is that you can play things.

You can also do with all three of these assistants some amazing, amazing things. We heard in the demo that I was actually adjusting my thermostat in my house. This is a huge, huge change from, for me, literally six months ago I had something mounted on the wall that had an LED screen that I couldn't read and it had two buttons on it and there was almost no way to know what the temperature was because even using something that you might be able to OCR the text on the screen, there was glare from the screen or what have you and it just couldn't read what the temperature was, let alone what you were setting it to and is it heat?

Is it cool?

What is it? Now, with all three of these assistants, you can not only get a thermostat that will interact with them.

You can also get things like lights and door locks. You can actually unlock your house from your phone or, in the case of using a voice assistant, you don't have to go around to every door in the house and go, "Are you locked? Are you locked? Okay, now I got to go downstairs and do this." You can simply tell your assistant to lock all the doors if you have installed one of these locks which communicates with it and it will do that. The same is true for lights. You can have it turn on a specific light or turn off a specific light.

There are even things called smart plugs. Let's say that you have a fan and you want that to be turned on whenever you say but it's not like there's going to be a huge market for smart fans, right? Not necessarily. How do we get around this and still have this really cool automated ability in our homes to say, "Turn on the fan," and have it happen? Along come smart plugs and the smart plugs are the things that interact with your assistant so you can tell them to be turned on or off and they will happily do that. Each of these assistants is able to interact in this way.

You did notice in my demo, unfortunately, that Apple does not interact with my particular thermostat and you're also going to find that with Google and Amazon. They will have certain things that they work with and certain things that they don't. You have to consider when you're researching which of these assistants you want, assuming that you want to just have one and stick with it, right? You've got to think about, okay, what do I want to use this with? If you already have a Nest, then perhaps you don't want to use Siri for all your assistant needs. You might want to also purchase something that's powered with one of these other two assistants.

Now I want to talk just briefly about where can you find these assistants? Then we'll get to the fun part and open it up for questions and of course for all of you to share your experiences and information. Again, where are these mysterious assistants? How can I get one? There are multiple ways to do that.

For Google, it has, inside the Google universe, a couple of different speaker sizes.

There is the Google Home mini and then there's just the original Google Home which it bizarrely looks like if you've ever seen the Renuzit air fresheners that are kind of narrow at the top and wide at the base and they're like this oval thing, it looks very much like that so that's the Google Home.

Then there's the Google Home Max which is a nice big stereo speaker that puts out great sound and has the Google Assistant inside it. You can also use the Google Assistant from Android phones or tablets so if you have an Android phone or a tablet, you can set up the ability to say this wake word, "Okay, gobble gobble," and off it goes on your Android phone or your tablet.

There are some third party speakers that also have Google Home available in them and one of them actually my son has and it's an Insignia alarm clock. It actually functions as, oh hey, you can set an alarm as you might expect, in the same way that you would with any other Google device, and it displays the time on it. It looks like a traditional alarm clock but you can set it by voice. It will show the temperature outside and some other really neat things but other than that, it's basically a Google home-powered speaker.

For Amazon's lovely assistant, that is found in ... There are so many of these now that I can't keep track of them. There's the Echo Dot, the Tap, the original Echo. There's one called the Echo Show which has a screen on it and does some really crazy things like you can actually take a picture of your outfit and get opinions I think partly powered by AI and partly powered by votes from humans as to which of these outfits looks best on me.

These are all over the place and can range anywhere from $50 to I believe the Google Home Max is $399. A wide array of price ranges there. Also, just like Google, Amazon does have this assistant inside its own tablets. If you've heard about the Fire tablet, perhaps you have one, you can use that and in fact that is what I used in my demo today. I have Google Homes everywhere but I didn't have so many of the Amazon based assistant so I was really happy that the experience from the Amazon tablet was just as powerful as if I had bought a powered speaker.

One last thing and we'll open it up for questions. How do you interact with these things? What can you do? How do you perhaps even change the wake word? (How do you look at something that it says, "Hey, I found this on the web. Now you can find more in the ... " and the answer is Google Home app or the Alex A app.)

Each of those will give you some configuration options and settings, including the ability to add one of these smart home devices that we talked about like a plug or a lamp or thermostat or what have you. Each of these assistants has its own app where you can configure it.

In the case of Siri, Siri is what it is right out of the box. Your phone or your iPad is where you're using Siri. (If you have the Home Pod, that is Apple's answer to the Google Home and these Amazon devices and it also is powered by Siri but when you're looking to how to configure Siri and what can you do with it and can I turn on Hey, Siri to do this hands-free, all that is going to be found in the settings of your Apple phone or tablet.)

Okay. With all of that said, while you all think about the questions that you have and you can begin raising your hand, as one person has done already. Martin Nelson, you are first up. Your question.

Automated: [inaudible 00:29:41] mute button.

Ricky Enger: There you go. You're unmuted.

Automated: [inaudible 00:29:46].

Martin Nelson: Okay. I have Google Home ...

Automated: [crosstalk 00:29:51] muted.

Martin Nelson: ... and I own an Alexa. One of the concerns I had was that Amazon ...

Automated: [inaudible 00:29:56] 1950.

Martin Nelson: ... Echo and Google did not speak except in English but recently ...

Automated: [inaudible 00:29:58].

Martin Nelson: ... Google Home added other languages to it and I also speak Spanish. I added Spanish to it and in the beginning when I asked for news, it would go to Mexican news sources and give me the news but recently, for some reason, I don't know if I did something in the settings but now when I speak in Spanish, I ask for news. It gives me only news in English. I was wondering if you have any idea how I might correct that.

Ricky Enger: My answer is I don't think that it's you. I think that it's an issue that Google is currently having. We did the same thing. We added German to it because my fiancee and I were doing a demo and so we added German. Now it will randomly speak in German when not asked and it doesn't always do it when you do request that. I think we started seeing this about three months ago and it appears to be an issue within Google. They're changing some things, as you might know. They recently re-released the Google Home app and it's not quite as good either. I think they're doing some things behind the scenes. I don't immediately have an answer for how you fix it but I can say that it's not just you experiencing it.

Martin Nelson: Okay, thank you.

Automated: Alerts, [inaudible 00:31:21] erase, add.

Ricky Enger: Okay. Let's see. Who do we have next? We've got someone on the phone. 1-9-2-0 star, star, star 2-7 ... I'm going to go ahead and unmute you and it should tell you that you're unmuted so when I do that, you'll be able to ask your question. Okay. Go right ahead. You're unmuted on the phone.

1920***27: I have a question about Siri.

Ricky Enger: Go right ahead.

1920***27: When you ask her something, she'll pull up a website but how do I get her to read the webpage?

Ricky Enger: You'll have to actually open that site. What she brings up is a portion of the site and as you explore around the screen, you'll be able to double tap on that to launch the site itself in Safari because I don't believe that she will read the entire site just in that small portion of the screen.

1920***27: Right, but then when I get onto Safari, how do I get her to read it?

Ricky Enger: Once the site is open in Safari, then rather than Siri reading it, you would be using voiceover or Zoom or whatever you typically use to read your webpages so you can just do your two-finger flick down.

Automated: [inaudible 00:32:59].

Ricky Enger: Yeah, you're absolutely right. It seems logical that she would read the whole thing and yet she doesn't. Once that page is open, then just use your normal commands for how you would read a webpage and that should do it.

1920***27: Okay, thank you.

Speaker 8: Excuse me. Excuse me. I'm sorry. I wanted to mention something about that because I've had some luck. It doesn't work all the time but I have had some luck in getting Siri to read stuff ...

Ricky Enger: Okay, great.

Speaker 8: ... and I wanted to pass it along. One of the things I've noticed is when you're moving very fast and Siri thinks your driving, Siri will say, "Would you like me to read it to you?" What I'll do sometimes is I'll pick up my phone and I'll walk really, really fast around my apartment and ...

Ricky Enger: Clever.

Speaker 8: ... sometimes she'll read it to me.

Ricky Enger: Nice. Okay. That's a good way to get exercise, too.

Speaker 8: It doesn't always work but a lot of times I can trick Siri into thinking I'm driving, as long as I'm moving pretty fast, and then yeah. That's all.

1920***27: Thank you.

Ricky Enger: I love the motivation there. Hey, you want to get this read? Do some exercise. Fantastic. Okay. We have S-M-S-3-2-0-V-L. You're up next with your question. You there? S-M-S-3-2-0 ...

SMS320VL: Is that me?

Ricky Enger: I believe it might be.

SMS320VL: Okay. My question is about security.

Ricky Enger: Good one.

SMS320VL: Google's connected to the web. Amazon's connected to the web. They're connected to the cloud. How safe are these for use?

Ricky Enger: This is a really good question and it's also one that's kind of open ended, right?

Each of these assistants do have switches on them where you can mute the microphone so that none of your information is being, quote, passively listened to but it is worth keeping in mind that when those microphones are unmuted, this assistant, as, quote, dumb as the smart assistant is ... Its job is just to sit there and listen for the wake word and do things and not try and interpret anything else it hears but the fact is that you don't have any assurance beyond your trust in the company and the terms of the service that they've spelled out that your information is not being used.

I think it's something that we all have to think about, not only with voice assistance but with anything that we do on the internet. We might think I'm posting in a private Facebook group and no one can sees that and the truth is it's on the internet somewhere and so it could happen.

I will say that in general, it seems that the companies are being good stewards of our data thus far. There have been instances where Amazon actually came up in at least one case and I think two where very unfortunately there was a violent crime committed. That was actually recorded by the assistant and that data was turned over to law enforcement. It does exist. It is there and it's something that we all want to be aware of because that's kind of the other side of this is that, as convenient as this is, we have to think about what have we allowed in our homes and how comfortable do we feel about that? That's an individual decision, of course, but if you ever are concerned and there are things that you're having a serious discussion about and you really want no chance of any device eavesdropping on you, you can flip that switch to mute the thing or you can simply unplug it and turn it off for a little bit. Great thing to keep in mind and a great question to ask.

SMS320VL: A followup question on that. How hackable are they?

Ricky Enger: The answer is that everything is hackable but there really hasn't been anything publicly stated about someone broke in and did this or that or the other. It's a concern that you kind of want to have, especially if you have door locks that are electronic. This is something that you think about but because it's such a serious issue, there have been significant steps taken to ensure that they aren't hackable. The unfortunate thing is that we can't say, "No, they absolutely aren't hackable," but we can say with a reasonable degree or certainty that it's very, very difficult to do so and it hasn't happened yet.

SMS320VL: Okay. Thank you.

Ricky Enger: You're welcome. All right. Next, 5-8-7 on the phone. 5-8-7 on the phone, or 1-5-8-7. I'll try and unmute you and let's see if that works. Okay. You're unmuted. If you're on the phone and you just got the notification that you've been unmuted, go right ahead.

Jessie: Hi.

Ricky Enger: Hey.

Jessie: I just got my Google Home Mini but I'm surviving greatly in the Apple atmosphere and I'm wondering if you can give me any kind of quick tips of how to, like if there's any way to port my iOS calendar and contacts and such into Google Home so that way I can ask Google Home for the same information that I've got to dig around for on my phone.

Ricky Enger: That is a great question and for me, the answer is that I primarily still live in Apple for calendar and contacts and the like because Apple is so great at it but you can use Google Calendar using the Google account that you've configured your Google Home Mini with. If anyone knows of any tools that kind of does a nice export of your existing calendar and contacts to Google, I know they do exist. I just don't know one off the top of my head but that is the method that you would use to kind of move universes, so to speak, is that you would get more comfortable with Google Calendar. The great thing is that even if Google Calendar seems a bit cumbersome to use on the web or on its own, you can add calendar entries. You can add reminders and things like that from the Google Assistant. I wish I could be more helpful in giving a tool that would do that import, export but that will at least kind of get you started down the right path. All right.

Next we have 8-1-6 on the phone, please.

Kim: Hi, this is Kim. Can you hear me?

Ricky Enger: Yes, ma'am.

Kim: Okay, great. I had a couple of questions. First of all, I wanted to know how accessible Google Home was to set up. Amazon was very accessible to set up. I have an Amazon Tap and love it. I'm thinking of getting a Google Home Mini so first of all, how accessible is the Google Home Mini? That's my first question. Then my second is a comment. No, another question. I also have an inaccessible heating and thermostat right now, and just like you did. What was the process that you used to get your thermostat accessible? Then the third thing is I have a comment. If you want to avoid the whole privacy issue, I got an Amazon Tap and that means that basically it's the equivalent of remote-control versus going to the television and actually changing the channel. It's worth it to me. I step over to the Tap, press a button. It goes beep or the equivalent of beep and then I can ask my question. That's how I've ensured my privacy up to this point.

Ricky Enger: That's an excellent point. The Amazon Tap is, I believe, the only one of its kind with the exception of Siri if you don't have Hey, Siri turned on, so with the tap and with Siri pressing and holding the home button, each of those are user tasks that are initiated by the user. You know the data that's being sent when you activate these things. To your questions, both awesome. Number one, the Google Home setup was really quite easy to do when I set it up and I've most recently set up another one about three months ago. With that said, the Google Home app has recently had a bit of an overhaul and the setup process is still fine and still accessible. There are just some settings within the Google Home app and I won't call them inaccessible. I will say that the app is not nearly as user friendly as it previously was. For settings that you want to configure from your Google app, just be aware that it might be a little bit of a not-straightforward experience.

Secondly, the thermostat that I got, I purchased a Nest and the manufacturer requires that you set up a Next account. The thermostat itself is communicating with the Nest service online and then once that happens, you go into either the Google app or the Amazon Alex with an A app and go to the smart home devices. Whenever you choose the brand that you have, whether it's a Nest or there's Honeywell. There are any number of them. I think Samsung even makes a couple of thermostats. When you choose that, then it takes you to the service which you've just set up. For example, the Nest service and you log into that service and provide permission from the Nest service for your assistant to interact with it. Then you're all set.

Kim: How did you get your Nest hooked up?

Ricky Enger: I unfortunately had to get my air conditioner replaced so while they were doing that, they mounted it on the wall and when it first comes on it's not a fully accessible experience.

You actually have a QR code that you use your phone to basically scan for the QR code on the device so it knows, "Oh, this is your nest." That was the only portion that was ... I won't say not doable by me. If I had to I probably could have because it's scanning for a QR code so if you're holding your camera nearby, then it is looking at the screen and will probably eventually find it.

That's how it works and with all that said, I was glad that the person who had mounted it on the wall was also able to hold the camera and do the QR code and then I was able to do the rest.

Kim: If you didn't have a repair person, this would've been kind of a huge deal to get this thing mounted and set up and all that.

Ricky Enger: It would've been for a mechanically disinclined person such as myself ...

Kim: That's me.

Ricky Enger: ... it would have been, yes.

Kim: Okay. Okay. Since I have sighted people in the house, I'll probably stick with the LED for now and then if I ever don't, then I'll have to rethink the options but at least I know they're out there. What device did you use to set your Google Home up and what app did you use or whatever?

Ricky Enger: I actually used my iPhone and downloaded the Google Home app to the iPhone. It's nice to be able to use an Apple device to communicate with a Google one. I'm definitely [inaudible 00:46:26] cross platform.

Kim: Okay. All right. Thank you so much.

Ricky Enger: You're welcome. Okay. 8-1-6, you're next. I think that was who just spoke. I apologize. Let's try 8-1-0. 8-1-0 on the phone. I will unmute you.

Speaker 12: [inaudible 00:46:53].

Ricky Enger: There you go. There you go.

Speaker 12: No, I didn't do it.

Speaker 13: Somebody [inaudible 00:46:59].

Speaker 12: Not me.

Speaker 13: Somebody did.

Ricky Enger: Okay. I'll go ahead and mute you again. 8-1-0, if you do have a question, you can unmute yourself on this next round. For right now, I'm going to move down to 3-8-5 on the phone. 3-8-5.

385: Hi.

Ricky Enger: Yes.

385: Can you hear me?

Ricky Enger: Yes.

385: Okay. My question is with regard to lady A, and you know who I'm talking about I think.

Ricky Enger: Nicely done.

385: If you wish to do something, for example, you would like a list of the games that she can play, how can you get her to give you such a list?

Ricky Enger: That is a good question and my way of doing this is probably not the most efficient way of doing this so for anyone who uses this more than I do, certainly feel free to jump in. What I do is not ask her but rather there is a skills section within the app that you use to configure her and you can browse to your heart's content. There are literally thousands and thousands of skills. When I say skills, for those who are not familiar with this particular brand of assistant, this is how you get her to perform certain things is that you enable a skill. Does anyone have a followup to that on what the easiest way to, for example, list the games that she can play or list the music services that she can connect to? Okay, no answers there so if anyone does have anything, do please jump in. My first place to start, though, again would be to look within the skills section of the app and my gosh. You'll probably spend lots of time there because if a user can think of it, it exists in there.

Let's go for 3-0-1 on the phone, please.

Speaker 15: I'm not 3-0-1 but I'm not sure if-

Ricky Enger: That's okay. You jumped ahead. That's okay.

Speaker 15: I'll go ahead if it's okay.

Ricky Enger: Yes, ma'am.

Speaker 15: Great presentation. Until recently, I only used and had access to Siri and now, by a strange coincidence, I suddenly have access to both of the others that we've been talking about and one of the things I found really frustrating with Siri, unless I didn't understand how to do it, was if I wanted to get a phone number to some place in a hurry which I didn't happen to have in my contacts, I found that she wasn't very good at that.

She might bring up the address of the institution or the office that I named and I was wondering if either of the other two are better at that because I'm assuming that there are other people like me who don't want to put absolutely every repairman and every doctor that you only see once and every lost and unfortunate partner in your contact but you may have reasons to ... You're in a car, you're running late, you don't have the number and you've got to call them and say, "We're late and here's where we are," or whatever. Do you have a recommendation, either a better way to have Siri do that, if she will, or whether the A lady or Google is a better option for me to try?

Ricky Enger: They all do it equally well or badly depending on how you look at it. It's kind of all in how you ask the question. It is more efficient than looking it up yourself but it may take a little while. What I tend to do is I will first try, "Hey, so-and-so, call this business," and a lot of times, as you've found, that doesn't work. I might then say, "Hey, so-and-so, where is the nearest Best Buy?" For example. She'll say, "Oh, it's four miles away and it's on this street. Is that the one you want?" I can say, "Call it." Whenever she says, "Is this the one you want?"

"Yes," and she will usually say, "I can call it or I can give you directions." You can say, "Call it." It works similarly with the other two in that you have to kind of specify the business and unfortunately get through the address portion of it first before really getting to the meat of the thing, which is I just want you to call it.

Speaker 15: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you.

Ricky Enger: You're welcome. Okay.

Speaker 8: Excuse me. Also, real quick on that ...

Ricky Enger: Yep.

Speaker 8: I have also had experience with that where sometimes Siri will say, "Do you want the address?" And I'll say, "No, give me the phone number," and Siri will read the phone number out loud. The only problem, I actually just called tech support and Apple and reported this, they read the number really, really, really fast. For me, I like to call from a landline when I'm home and so that makes it kind of difficult but you can say, "Call I," and it'll call it from your phone and then what I'll do is if I want to ... Sometimes I'll just hang up and then I'll have it not in my contacts but it'll be in my most recent calls and then I'll just delete it when I'm done with the number.

Ricky Enger: Awesome. Sounds great. We have time for ...

Jessie: Excuse me.

Ricky Enger: ... just a couple more. Go ahead. Who is that?

Jessie: This is 5-8-7. This is Jessie. I just wanted to give a tip about the whole calling thing that's being asked about.

Ricky Enger: Go right ahead.

Jessie: I can't seem to get Siri or Alexa to do it properly. Sorry, Echo, to do it properly but Google Home is absolutely amazing at it is phone trees. Thank you. I've found I'm really good at ... I can phone into a phone tree, like the local accessible ride service in my city, and then if it says, "For booking, press one," I can say, "Hey, gobble gobble, press one," and it's even been as good as for I can say, "Hey, gobble gobble," and then recite the digits of my pin code and it will enter them. I haven't gotten Echo to do it and I don't even think Siri could but I found it very amazing for navigating for phone trees hands-free on the Google Home.

Ricky Enger: That is absolutely fantastic. I'm going to have to try that because I use gobble gobble all the time and that would be wonderful to do that. We are coming right up on the hour so we have time for one more question. Rod, I believe you were in the chat wanting to raise your hand and so I want to acknowledged you if you've got time to unmute and ask your question. Uh oh. Sorry. Okay. Apologize for that. Marcy, Marcy on your iPhone, last question of the evening. Go right ahead. Uh oh. Now everybody's getting shy. Let's try one more time. Nicky, it's your turn. Go ahead.

Automated: Space, mute, currently unmuted, button, to activate press space bar.

Nicky: Hi. How are you?

Ricky Enger: Hello.

Nicky: Hi. Can you hear me?

Ricky Enger: Yes.

Nicky: Yeah. Okay. I just wanted to say one thing about the Google calendar. I have Apple. It's [inaudible 00:55:13] ...

Automated: Alerts, [inaudible 00:55:15].

Nicky: It's coming from the other side. I'm all the way into Google but one thing is going forward, I'm not sure how to port your Apple calendar to Google calendar. I don't know of the best way but going forward, if you create a new account in Google Calendar, you can add that to your iCal and whatever you add to your iCal will go to Google. [inaudible 00:55:45] ...

Automated: [inaudible 00:55:43] 16, 15, star, star, star 336 [inaudible 00:55:43].

Nicky: ... add your appointment with Google Assistant and when you're in that phone, that will show up on your Apple calendar.

Ricky Enger: Excellent. That is perfect for the gentleman who was asking earlier about being able to use a Google Home Mini to get to calendars and contacts and the like and that is a nice way to at least, while we don't yet and I will research this because now I want to know, while we don't yet have the name of a tool to port Apple stuff over to Google Calendar, this is a nice way to do that moving forward. It's always so sad when we come to the end of one of these because I feel like there could be three or four hours of discussion on this and this will not be the last-

SMS320VL: That thing with the Google and the Apple.

Ricky Enger: Sorry, yes?

SMS320VL: A great way to transition between Apple and Google is an IFTT. Are you familiar with that?

Ricky Enger: Oh, IFTT. Yes. That would take maybe a little bit to explain in the time that we have left but how exactly would you go about doing that?

SMS320VL: There are a lot of things that if you're already using ... It goes really well between the two. For example, if you use one of those skills, it will, depending on the skill you use, you can enter something in an iOS calendar and it'll automatically input into your Google Calendar or vice versa as well as contacts. You just have to find the right skill. If you do a little bit of research about IFTT, it's a good way to transition because you can kind of use both at the same time.

Ricky Enger: Fantastic. Thank you so much for that and thank all of you for all of the great questions and suggestions and resources that you have shared this evening. That's going to bring this to a close for this time and, again, this will not be the last one of these that we do so do stay tuned. Follow Hadley on Twitter or Facebook. That's Hadley Institute and you can also check out the Hadley website at Thanks again, everyone, for listening and thanks for joining and hopefully you will tune in to the next Tech it Out. Until next time, see you.