The new Family Bell feature on Google Assistant smart displays and speakers. | Image: Google
Google is expanding the capabilities of its Assistant on smart displays and speakers today to make it easier for families that are homeschooling their children during the pandemic.
Leading the way is the new Family Bell feature, an alarm-like reminder that can be broadcast from a Nest Home smart display or speaker at a set time. Google is pitching the Family Bell as a way for families to announce when it’s time to start schooling or get ready for bed. A parent can program a Family Bell through the Assistant app on a phone, set when it will go off and repeat on specific days, and choose which smart display or smart speaker it will chime from. Family Bell alerts can also be programmed through Hey Google voice commands, but any management after that has to be done through the Assistant app.
When the Family Bell alert goes off, the Nest device will emit a chime and recite whatever is programmed in the app. You can program multiple Family Bells for the same time, but you can only have each Bell broadcast from a single smart display or speaker.
Another new feature aimed around homeschooling kids is the ability to have a Nest smart display or speaker announce when it’s time to start the school day and show education-themed graphics. You can say “Hey Google, school’s in session” or “Start the school day,” and the special visuals will play. It’s also possible to program smart home devices, such as lights, to react when the command is issued. Lilian Rincon, senior director of product management for Google Assistant, likens this to an old-school class bell — but at home.
Google is also expanding the Broadcast feature, which allows you to blast a custom alert to all of the Nest speakers in your home. Now, you can specify which speakers or smart displays a Broadcast goes to, and that should prevent disturbing a sleeping child from the announcement.
Finally, Nest smart displays and speakers are getting an animal of the day feature, which will provide facts, sounds, and a creative task, such as drawing, for a different animal each day. You can hear about the animal of the day by saying “Hey Google, tell me about the animal of the day” to a Nest smart display or speaker.
All of these new features are rolling out to Nest Hub smart displays and Nest Home speakers starting today.