By requiring an introductory word as trigger, Google has forced an element of conversation

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By requiring introductory words(“hey or ok Google”) as triggers, Google has forced an element of conversation – insight from a perspective of User Experience Designer, Johna Paolino.

Two simple User Experience Design gestures that delighted a female user.

I felt very unsettled and found myself constantly agitated as I observed my boyfriend bark commands at this black cylinder.

  • Alexa, turn off the lights. Alexa, set my alarm for 8am

This declarative speech was so incongruous with how he interacts with me, with how he interacts with any human.

  • Ok Google, play NPR news. Hey Google, set my alarm for 8am.

Why did these interactions suddenly feel so natural? They felt appropriate. In fact, I was delighted by my new Google Home.

Although product features differ slightly, the root cause of my emotional shift had nothing to do with these capabilities. All the feelings I had for Alexa came down to two simplistic user experience design differences.

Was there a need to rename the voice component of these products? Why isn’t it Echo or Amazon? Why not Apple? By doing this, we’ve subconsciously constrained the capabilities of a female. With the Echo, we’ve even gone as far as to confine her to a home. The experience difference here is huge! When I return to Alexa now, I feel authoritative.

The voice component of the Google Home however is simply triggered with “Google”. Google, a multinational, first-of-its-kind technology company. Suddenly, a female’s voice represents a lot more. This made me happy.

The advancement of feminism requires awareness from both genders. It isn’t isolated to how men treat women, but extends to how women treat each other. I am constantly making an effort to change my behaviors towards other women, and in this effort certainly prefer how I am asked to greet Google. Thank you, Google for paying closer attention to the details, and to the female users.

P.s. If you’ve kids, give it a thought, what these interactions with digital assistants would teach them, how to ask for something. Little things like these, that you don’t even see, can make such a huge difference, as they grow up.

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Having natural conversations with Google Assistant

You don’t need to repeat Hey/OK Google while talking to Google Assistant.

A lot of people complained that adding “Hey Google” before each follow-up question for the Assistant doesn’t feel as natural as they’d like, and Google found a way to solve this. To make your conversations/interactions with the Google Assistant feel more natural and intuitive, just turn on ‘Continued Conversation’.

For the Google Assistant to have a natural conversation, it should be able to understand when it’s being spoken to and should be capable of responding to several requests during an interaction.

Continued Conversation allows users to ask the Google Assistant follow-up questions without having to repeatedly say the “Ok/Hey Google” hotword. This goes hand-in-hand with Assistant’s existing ability to remember the previous context so that users don’t have to restate a part of the query.

How to enable Google Home’s Continued Conversation

1. Assistant Settings > Preferences > Continued Conversation

Launch the Google Assistant on your phone either by long-pressing the Home button (Android) or by starting the Assistant app (Android or iOS).

From the Explore menu, tap on the three-dot menu icon in the top right corner. Select the option for Settings.

Now, tap on the Preferences option under the Account. Here, you should see a Continued Conversation menu item. Once you enable Continued Conversation, it will be live on any and all Google Home speakers that you are the primary account on.

Here’s how this helps, with Continued Conversation turned on, after you ask the Assistant a question, you can ask a follow-up, set a reminder, or add something to your shopping list without having to say “Hey Google” each time.

For e.g. ask “Hey Google, what’s the weather today?”… “And what about tomorrow?”… “Can you add a rain jacket to my shopping list”… “And remind me to bring an umbrella tomorrow morning”…” Thank you!

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After saying the “Hey/Ok Google” hotword and ask it a question, the Assistant will continue listening for eight seconds. The speaker’s LEDs will remain lit to indicate that the microphone is still active and listening. You can manually stop it from listening by saying “Thank you” or “Stop” once you’re done, or It will end the conversation once it detects that you’re no longer talking to the Assistant. Assistant is also capable of parsing when a user is directly talking to it and expecting a reply, versus the person just affirming the response. As such, colloquial phrases like “Nice” or “Great” will be ignored from your follow-up command.

Availability: For now, only Assistant accounts and devices set to en-US or English (US).

Are digital assistants likely to make people(specifically children) rude? Interacting with devices at a crucial stage in social and emotional development might have long term negative impact on compassion, and empathy of people. What do you think, let us know in the comments below.

Things you can do from here:

3 thoughts on “By requiring an introductory word as trigger, Google has forced an element of conversation

Add yours

  1. I noticed that this feature does not work when you are streaming music on connected speaker (chromecast)? Can someone confirm this?


  2. Dan Hirsch True, it’s the user.

    But how many users change that wake word, in fact, how many normal users even know about having choices of wake word? Other than power users, most users don’t bother. So, as a User experience designer, you’re bound to think, what effect this will leave on normal users.


  3. But her findings are based on the wakeword “Alexa”.

    Which is the default – I get it. However if you choose to change it to: Amazon, Echo, or even Computer it´s not the product – it´s the user. (e.G. her Boyfriend 😉


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