Google Home is a line of smart speakers that uses Google Assistant, a virtual assistant similar to Siri, in order to use voice commands to answer questions asked by the user. It is a smart speaker that can be used to turn a home into a smart home. With the functionality of Spotify, Google Assistant can be asked to play any song by starting the command with “Hey Google” or “OK Google”. Google Assistant can be asked questions from a normal Google Search such as “What is Barack Obama’s height?” and it would return the information by saying it back to you. The speaker can give information regarding the user's Google Calendar and describe the weather or the distance between points A and B. With the integration of other third-party services, a Google Home speaker can return information regarding the temperature in the home or even if there is a stranger at the front door. Google Home has also integrated with its original streaming device the Chromecast, allowing users to cast something on their TV if a Chromecast is plugged in by simply talking to their smart speaker device. Google Home has a line of products that are all integrated amongst each other including doorbells, security cameras, and thermostats. These all work with the smart speaker in order to control different aspects of their home. The price range for the speakers and other integrated smart products range from $50 to $150. There are many different types of speakers that all have different functionality including bigger or smaller speakers and some even have a screen display. Alongside this, there are many ethical concerns regarding the speaker's listening functionality reported by many users.
Types of Speakers
This is the smallest form of the line of speakers that uses Google Assistant and starts at $50 on Google’s website. This product comes in the shape of a circle and has a microphone on/off switch and two tap features that allow the user to control volume. This speaker has the functionality of working with third-party devices, playing music, and is able to answer questions that the normal Google Assistant can answer. This speaker is too small to contain a bass generating woofer. This device is in parallel to Amazon’s Echo Dot, which is Amazon’s smallest smart speaker as well.
The Google Home is one step up from the Nest Mini which has a starting price of $99 and cylindrical in shape. This speaker also has similar functionalities as the mini. It has a microphone on/off switch and tap buttons to control the volume. The speaker is bigger in size than the mini, and provides higher sound quality. The Google Home has a 2-inch driver and dual 2-inch passive radiators.
The Google Home Max is the largest speaker in the Google Home category. The price for this is $299 on the Google Store. This device has six microphones allowing it to pick up audio much better than the prior two and has what is known as smart sound. This means that the speaker uses machine learning to adjust the volume of the speaker based on factors like time of day and volume of the room.
The Google Nest Hub is just like the other smart speakers with a new set of functionalities. The price for this is $129. This speaker contains a screen that provides visual feedback for certain queries. This is useful for commands such as “what is a recipe for…” and showing who is at the door if a smart doorbell integrated with the speaker.
Nest Hub Max
The Nest Hub Max starts at $229 on the Google Store. This product is similar to the Nest Hub in the sense that it also has a screen. This screen is much bigger and has a Nest camera built-in.
The first modern virtual assistant to be placed on a smartphone was Apple’s Siri which was introduced on the iPhone 4s in 2011. The competition began increasing and the next competitor came from Amazon’s Alexa. Google unveiled its Google assistant in 2016 at the Google I/O Developers Conference in May 2016 and was available for the first time on the Google Pixel phone. This led Google to create a product tailored around the virtual assistant and provided a means for consumers to turn their homes into smart homes.
The biggest question related to Google Home’s ethical problems is: Is your Google Home always listening to you?  In order to activate a Google Home speaker, the words "OK Google" or "Hey Google" have to be said. A lot of dispute has been made regarding whether this speaker is always listening to you or not. It is argued that, in order for the speaker to recognize the triggering phrase, the speaker has to always be listening and there is no guarantee that anything other than the triggering phrases is not being interpreted. The speakers all have a switch that allows the user to turn the microphone off which is meant to prevent privacy concerns.
Privacy Issues at Google
There are many privacy concerns related to Google including tailored ads based on things the user has not even searched online but has simply spoken about. People wonder if cell phones are always listening to what is being said and are able to interpret and tailor advertisements to that.  User's biggest concerns related to these speakers are being monitored without realizing they are.
The laser hack is the most recent ethical concern relating to the line of speakers. The Google Home speakers use micro-electro-mechanical systems which unintentionally respond to light as if it were sound. Researchers have exploited this vulnerability by encoding a message in a laser pointer's light frequency that matches the frequency of a spoken message. This light would then have to be shined at the speakers' sensor in order to interpret the message. This attack can be used to unlock smart doors, smart garages, visit websites, locate, unlock, and start smart vehicles if linked to the users' Google Account. Though there are many constraints to this including being able to shine a light through a window, lining up the light with the sensor all without having the user notice, the risk of having a speaker being controlled in such a manner still exists.
- Gebhart, Andrew. "Everything you need to know about Google Home", "Cnet", 8 May 2019. Retrieved on March 26, 2020.
- Google Store Retrieved on 26 March 2020
- Sarkar, Somrata. "Is Google Home listening to me?", "Tech Advisor", 20 December 2019. Retrieved on 26 March 2020.
- Glaser, April. "OK Googe, get out of my house", "Slate", 5 October 2017. Retrieved on 26 March 2020.
- Goodin, Dan. "Researchers hack Siri, Alexa, and Google Home by shining lasers at them", "Ars Technica", 4 November 2019. Retrieved on 26 March 2020.