Google Home Now Supports Multiple Users, Or Not
Google Home now supports multiple users according to a notification in the app that appeared after a recent update. However, there doesn’t appear to be any way to configure the app to add a second user. When asking Google Home by voice, we receive the very familiar response, “Sorry. I’m not sure how to help with that yet.” Nothing in “settings” or “account” in the app provides additional information. For the time being, your Google Home can still only support a single user despite the crafty marketing videos from Google that indicate otherwise.
Addressing a “Known Issue”
Voicebot reported on this substantial usability flaw in November when Google Home first shipped. The fact that Google Home is tied to a single user is a problem because table-top voice assistants and smart speakers are designed as multi-user devices. Everyone in your household and indeed everyone visiting your home can access and modify personal information associated with your Google account by using Google Home. Yonatan Zunger, head of infrastructure for Google Assistant, confirmed to ComputerWorld that it was a known issue and they “want to resolve it stat.” Five months later and still not resolved, but at least it looks like the update is imminent.
Changes Also Seen in Development Code
The Verge reported in March that new code had appeared in an Android Application Package (APK) that included placeholders for multiple account users for Google Assistant. So, we have two signs that Google is putting the pieces in place to make Google Home a true, multi-user device. This is a challenge for voice assistants that start from a mobile phone use case. Mobile devices tend to be personal devices. Home-based voice assistants are not. This means a different engineering and usability perspective is required. Amazon Alexa solved this long ago and maybe its lack of mobile footprint helped it bring a broader perspective to usability. Hopefully, Microsoft and Apple will take note and launch with devices that support multiple users.