“Hey, Google” might already be an integral part of your day, but we bet there are still things your Google Assistant can do that you don’t know about or tasks you aren’t using enough — like offering recipe help in the kitchen, running your robot vacuum and translating dozens of languages in real time.
The Google Nest line of smart speakers can do a ton, including several things Amazon Echo and Apple’s Siri can’t.
Here are eight essential commands you should use on the regular. For more, find out how to use your Google Nest Hub to improve voice and video calls, how to change your Google Assistant’s voice (and accent) and the best places in your house to put your Google Nest devices.
Read also: The Real Cost of Setting Up a Google Smart Home
1. Light it up
Equipping your house (or even just one room) with smart light bulbs is another way to take advantage of a Google Home or Nest. You do need special light bulbs to make this one work and they’re quite a bit more expensive than your average bulb.
We use Philips Hue’s smart LEDs in our bedroom. It’s really nice if I’m reading in bed with the lights on and start to get drowsy. All I need to say is, “Hey Google, turn the lights off.” To bring the light back up, just say, “Hey Google, turn on the lights.” You can also specify brightness, dimness and change the color.
Google Home and Nest support a number of bulbs now in addition to Philips Hue like Lifix and others. To add a new bulb, make sure your app is up to date, tap Add > Set up device > New Devices > Next. From there, follow the on-screen instructions.
2. Warm up or cool down
We invested in a Nest thermostat for our home this year and if you’re as particular about the temperature as I am, I highly recommend it. After you add the device to your Google Home app, you can ask Google to set your thermostat to a specific temperature. You can also make incremental changes (e.g. “OK, Google, raise the temperature 1 degree“).
You can control the thermostat from the app too, no talking necessary (Google Home app > choose the thermostat icon > change the temperature) One of my favorite parts about the Nest is that it learns how you like your temperature and adapts. For example, our Nest gets cooler at night before bed and warms up before we leave for work. The Nest can also remind you to change your air filter.
3. An added bonus to setting an alarm
Asking Google to wake you up in the morning is a bit easier than setting the alarm on your phone’s clock or — gasp — a real clock. Simply say, “Hey, Google, set my alarm for…” and give your desired time. The alarm will sound and to shut it off, you just have to say “stop.”
Of course, you don’t have to be turning in for the night to use the alarm. You can also say, “Hey, Google, set a timer for…” which keeps your hands free during workouts, cooking or if you’re coloring your hair. To silence the alarm, again, just say, “stop.” You don’t have to say, “Hey, Google or OK, Google” before that.
4. Music, news and podcasts
To play your favorite songs and podcasts, make sure your preferred music app — YouTube Music, Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora and Deezer are supported — is linked to your Google Home app. From there, you can ask Google to play a specific song or genre (e.g., “Hey, Google, play ’90s rock”). If you like a song, you can ask Google to save it on the app. To end your tunes, “Hey, Google, stop the music” is your go-to phrase.
You can also use the smart speaker with podcasts, but you have to ask for a specific one (e.g. “…play Stuff You Missed in History Class”). If you stopped listening in the middle of an episode — either on Google Home or Nest or your smartphone, it’ll pick up where you left off.
To hear the day’s headlines you can customize your favorite news sources on the Google Home app and change the order they’re played in. Most news stations have a podcast, so you can ask Google to play that, as well.
5. Get the weather forecast — from today or next week
Are you going to need an umbrella today? Did it just get really cold? Just ask Google what the weather is like and it will give you the current temperature and an overview for the rest of the day wherever you are. Google can give forecasts further out, as well, if you ask for the weekend or next week.
6. Clean up your act
Google Nest works with most robot vacuums that have apps. Depending on the make and model, you can use Google Assistant and a Nest speaker to order your vacuum to start, stop and pause, direct it to clean a specific room or find it if you’ve misplaced it.
7. Find movies playing nearby
When you ask “Which movies are playing?” Google will list several new titles and ask which film interests you. From there, Google can help you pick a time and tell you how to buy tickets at your nearest theater through Fandango.
8. Speak a new language
Google Home can translate up to 50 languages in real time, which comes in handy if you’re doing homework, talking to a non-native English speaker or just looking for a sophisticated turn of phrase.
To put Google Assistant into interpreter mode, just ask what you’d like translated.
- “Hey, Google, interpret from Japanese to Dutch.”
- “OK, Google, I need an interpreter for French.”
- “Hey, Google, what’s the Korean word for ‘hotel’?”
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