Google Assistant Adds Quick Phrases for Skipping Wake Words to Nest Hub Max
Google Nest Hub Max owners don’t always need to say “Hey, Google” to activate the Google Assistant anymore. The smart display now incorporates the Quick Phrases feature teased at Google I/O this year, allowing users to skip the wake word in some cases. The roster of streamlined voice commands is limited to a handful of basic tasks such as learning the time and weather and controlling lights, alarms, and timers.
Quick Phrases initially appeared as a Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro feature last year as a way of skipping alerting Google Assistant and just issuing a command. Nest Hub Max owners can now do the same by manually adjusting the settings for the available tasks. Once enabled, saying “what time is it?” or “turn on the living room lights” will prompt Google Assistant to act without any other statement and an icon on the screen confirms the voice assistant heard what you said.
Quick Phrases pairs well with the Look and Talk feature announced at the same time, though it arrived a couple of months ahead. The Google Nest Hub Max camera employs Look and Talk to detect someone looking at the screen as a way of awakening Google Assistant. Users can look into the camera from up to five feet away and issue commands to Google Assistant. Facial recognition serves as a visual “always listening” system, much like how smart speakers and displays rely on their microphones being on to hear when someone uses a wakeword. Though it doesn’t require a specific expression, Look and Talk was originally code-named Blue Steel, the signature facial expression of Ben Stiller’s character in the film Zoolander.
Not saying “Hey, Google,” or other wake words only saves a little bit of time, less if eye contact is necessary first, but those seconds do eventually add up. What may matter more to Google is that Quick Phrases enables more casual engagement with its voice assistant and could encourage people to rely on it more. That said, while Quick Phrases uses the Voice Match vocal identification tool to ensure only the device owner can issue the abbreviated voice commands, it’s easy to imagine an uptick in accidental awakenings, something that voice assistant users regularly cite as a major annoyance.