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article imageGoogle Home now works with multiple users in a family

By James Walker     Apr 24, 2017 in Technology
Google has updated Home with a major and significant new feature. Its Assistant-powered smart speaker can now recognise and distinguish between different voices, enabling it to seamlessly switch accounts and talk to everyone in a family.
The capability has been a top request from customers since the device's launch. Its release enables Google to step up the fight against smart home leader Amazon and its digital assistant Alexa.
Home speakers can now be connected to multiple phones owned by different people. If you're registering as a new family member, you can connect to the Home by selecting it in the list of available devices and tapping "Link your account." Your identity will be added as another user and you'll be asked to train Home to recognise your voice.
Once setup, you'll be able to use the Home app on your phone to customise your unique preferences for the device. When you're speaking to Home, it'll use the settings from your phone. If another family member starts a conversation, Home will immediately connect to their linked account instead.
Google distinguishes between voices using an advanced neural network. By listening to how you say the activation hot phrases "OK Google" and "Hey Google," it can work out your identity. When you configure your account, the fingerprint of your voice is saved to the device. The next time you say "OK Google," Home will compare your voice to its saved samples and determine which account to use.
The inclusion of a neural network means the process takes an almost imperceptible amount of time. According to Google, it should be a "matter of milliseconds" before Home has worked out who you are. Once the device has established your identity, you can talk to it as normal and it'll access your data and preferences as if you're the only user.
Google is recommending that you do not rely upon voice recognition alone to secure your data and Home. The device could occasionally misidentify you or grant access after hearing a voice recording. For now, the feature is solely designed to alleviate one of Home's biggest problems, its inability to easily serve everyone in a family.
The implementation of the feature also gives Google a marked advantage over key rival Amazon. Alexa already supports multiple user profiles, enabling different family members to talk to devices. However, it currently lacks the automatic identity detection system that Google has developed, restricting its usefulness. Home now offers a more seamless solution that lets anyone in a family ask Home a question without having to reconfigure the device first.
Google Home's multiple user support is already rolling out to devices in the U.S. When it's available, a "multi-user is available" notification and card will be displayed in the Home app. You can tap the card to start adding another user. The feature will arrive on devices in the U.K. "in the coming months."
More about Google, google home, digital assistant, Smart home, IoT
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