Just about everybody loves the first Iron Man movie starring Robert Downey Jnr, but one of the other big stars of that movie was the AI home automation assistant Jarvis. Jarvis captured the imagination of fans and Mark Zuckerberg even went to the trouble of creating his own custom Jarvis-like system.
Having your own AI home automation assistant is no longer just something reserved for gazillionaires like Zuck and professional dabbler Bill Gates, who was doing this kind of thing long before it was cool.
Thanks to system’s like Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri, you too can ask for the lights to be dimmed or the thermostat adjusted. Of course, tech giant Google also has a horse in this race and has served up its own assistant and home automation combo.
The assistant is the unimaginatively-named “Google Assitant” (boo!) and the home automation product is called (you guessed it) Google Home.
I Can’t Let You Do That Dave
Just like the Amazon Echo, Google Home’s main interface is an internet-connected speaker that listens patiently for you to utter the magic words “OK Google” and then tries to do whatever you ask.
If you have devices installed that work with Google home you can control them through the same OK Google voice command path. For example, if you have a Nest thermostat you can tell it to change the temperature. If you have a Philips Hue light system the same applies.
You can also do a whole bunch of custom things using IFTTT, even for devices or services that were not officially designed to work with Google Home.
One of the most useful and interesting uses of the Google Home is with another product: the Google Chromecast.
The Chromecast actually refers to a handful of devices. Mainly there’s the Chromecast dongle that you plug into your TV, which allows you to beam your phone’s screen to it for things like Netflix. Then there’s an audio-only version that essentially turns any stereo in a smart stereo.
Chromecasts are inexpensive and dead simple to use, but a lot of people may not know that once you bring Google Home into the picture, you can do things in new and cool ways.
Doing the New Thing
So what exactly can you do with these two toys from the big G? Let me list the main tricks you can pull off to impress people coming to your wine and cheese parties.
Play that Funky Music
Any speaker or audio system that has a Chromecast Audio connected to it is yours to command with the Google Home. All you have to do is tell Google home to play specific audio through a specific Chromecast and it will do so without a complaint.
It works the other way around too! When you bring up the menu to cast audio to a Chromecast, you’ll notice that your Google Home speaker also shows up as a casting target. Just tap it and the audio will start to play through it.
Both Home and Chromecast support multi-room synced streaming and you can mix and match both types of devices.
Lights, Camera, Action!
For the classic video Chromecast, you can also do voice-based commands. Instead of whipping out your phone to cast video to your TV, you can ask Google Home to play a specific show on a specific TV that has a Chromecast (or Android TV Box) connected to it.
It works pretty well for YouTube (obviously) and for Netflix, but other services may still need to come on board or need a workaround of some sort.
By Your Command
While the natural language abilities of systems like the Google Assistant are getting very advanced now, it still helps to know the specific commands that are guaranteed to work every time, for a consistent and frustration-free experience.
CNET maintains a complete list of commands for the Google Home commands, but the ones we really care about are the following:
- “OK Google, cast [song] onto [speaker name].”
- “OK Google, play on the [TV name].” (YouTube)
- “OK Google, play [show or movie title] on the [TV name].”(Netflix)
These Chromecast-specific commands are neat, but there are some other really cool ones as well. “OK Google, order and Uber” is just beyond cool and makes me feel like this is the future. I also love “OK Google, tune my instrument” for when I’m playing my guitar,
I also love how Google keep their sense of fun, I don’t want to spoil things, but try asking your Google Home the following:
- “Hey Google, what is your quest?”
- “Hey Google, are you SkyNet?”
- “Hey Google, did you fart?”
There are way more, but half the fun is finding them, or you could just watch this video and spoil it for yourself. Hey, I’m not judging here.
So if you are in possession of both some Chromecasts and a Google Home, here’s how you go about getting them to be part of the family:
- Install the Google Home App on your smartphone or tablet. Android, or iOS
- Go through the initial setup of the app.
- Open the Google Home app
- Tap the menu button
- Make sure you’re using the same Google account in the app as you did for the Google Home speaker
- Make sure that your Chromecast(s) are on the same WiFi network as your app and Google Home speaker
- Now tap on “more settings” and go to “TVs and speakers”.
- You should see all the eligible devices on a list.
- Tap the little plus sign to add a Chromecast to the network.
Now it should all be linked up and the fun can begin. New apps and functionalities are being added to Google Home on a constant basis, so eventually, there may be nothing in your home, from the fridge to the dryer, that can’t be commanded by Google Home. For now, we have to be happy with the ability to as for the lights down, the temperature up and a warm winter night of Netflix and chill.