OK Google, Where’s Barb? How to set up Google Assistant shortcuts to Netflix and more


Google Home, Google’s AI-powered smart home speaker, rarely goes a few months without getting a feature. In the past year, it’s gained support for third-party integrations and added the ability to distinguish between multiple users. And in recent months, it’s rolled out the ability to call any phone number in the U.S. and Canada for free, proactively notify you about things like traffic jams and flight delays, play music from free Spotify accounts, and send directions to your smartphone.

One of its niftiest new abilities though, is shortcuts — an easy way to trigger lengthy, multistep commands with a word or phrase. Instead of having to say, “Play workout music on Google Play Music to my basement speaker” to cue up a treadmill playlist, for example, you might shorten the command to “Start workout.” Or, you might set up a “movie night” profile that ties a Chromecast device to a convenient phrase. With shortcuts, beaming a Netflix series to the living room flatscreen becomes as easy as saying, “Movie time.”

Shortcuts for Google Home are incredibly useful, but they have prerequisites — and they’re a little challenging to get the hang of. Here’s everything you need to know.

Compatible services

google home shortcuts guide screenshot
google home shortcuts guide screenshot
google home shortcuts guide screenshot

Despite the fact that Google Home is powered by the Google Assistant, Google’s intelligent voice assistant that ships on Android TV set-top boxes and Android Wear smartwatches, shortcuts only work on Google Home and Android smartphones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or newer. Unless you’re able to get your hands on an Android phone or Google Home, you won’t be able to use them.

If you can live with that limitation, though, getting started is a cinch. First, you’ll need the Google Home app — download it from the iTunes App Store or Google Play store. Once you’ve launched it and signed in with your Google account, tap on More Settings > Shortcuts. You’ll see two blank text fields labeled: When I say OK Google.. and Google Assistant should do

In the first field, enter a trigger phrase or word — the command you’ll utter to trigger the action — by tapping it out, or by using text-to-speech after tapping the grey microphone icon. After you enter it, you’ll get the option to add a second, optional fallback phrase or word — a second command you can say to trigger the same action.

The second field — Google Assistant should do... — is a bit more complicated. Here, you enter the device or services that will be triggered when the Google Assistant or Google Home recognizes your verbal shortcut. And unfortunately, the Google Home app doesn’t provide much guidance — you have the freedom to enter just about anything, which is fine for simple actions that don’t require much specificity. But if you tap out a command that the Google Assistant or Google Home fail to recognize, you’ll get a basic list of web search results for the phrase you entered.

Worse, there’s no way to validate commands before pushing them live. You have to save them, enable them, test them on Google Home or the Google Assistant, and make changes accordingly.

Once you’ve cleared those hurdles, though, you’ll see your custom shortcuts at the top of Shortcuts menu, where you can toggle them on and off individually.

Examples

Shortcuts support many (but not all) of the Google Home and Google Assistant’s commands — and some from third parties.

Running late

Had a rough morning, or get stuck in traffic? Not to worry — you can program a shortcut that lets co-workers know to expect you later.

You’ll have to add the person in question to your contacts first.

Here’s how to set it up:

  • In the When I say OK Google… text field, type: Running late. 
  • In the Google Assistant should do… text field, type: Send a text to [coworker’s name] I’m running late.

If all goes well, your colleague will get an “I’m running late” message when you shout, “Running late” to the Google Assistant or Google Home.

Stock update

Wondering how your portfolio’s performing? Wonder no more — you can program a shortcut that pulls in stock updates from CNBC.

Here’s how to set it up:

  • In the When I say OK Google… text field, type: Stock update.
  • In the Google Assistant should do… text field, type: Talk to CNBC about the markets.

The next time you say, “Stock update” to the Google Assistant or Google Home, you’ll get a full report on the day’s blue chip movements.

Throwback Thursday

Feeling nostalgic? Assuming you use Google Photos, Google’s free cloud backup tool, you can set up a shortcut that pulls up mementos on command.

If you aren’t using Google Photos, install the app from the iTunes App Store or Google Play and complete the onboarding steps. Then, open the Google Home app and head to Settings > Videos and Photos. You’ll see a Google Photos toggle. Tap it.

Here’s how to set it up:

  • In the When I say OK Google… text field, type: Feeling nostalgic.
  • In the Google Assistant should do… text field, type: Show me pictures of my family from last year .

When you say, “Feeling nostalgic” to the Assistant on your phone, Google Photos will pull up pictures from one calendar year ago.

Good night

If you’re tired of having to darken your bedroom light by light, good news: You can switch off every connected bulb in your house with a shortcut.

Here’s how to set it up:

  • In the When I say OK Google… text field, type: Good night.
  • In the Google Assistant should do… text field, type: Turn off all the lights.

Cheer me up

Feeling blue after a long, hard day? There’s an easy solution: A shortcut that makes it easy to find pleasant, spirit-brightening YouTube videos.

Here’s how to set it up:

  • In the When I say OK Google… text field, type: Cheer me up.
  • In the Google Assistant should do… text field, type: Show me Corgi videos on YouTube.

When you shout, “Cheer me up” at the Assistant on your phone, it’ll show you an endless YouTube playlist of Corgis.

Where’s Barb?

Shortcuts make catching up on Netflix shows like Stranger Things simple.

You’ll need to subscribe to Netflix if you don’t already, of course, and you’ll to link your Netflix account in the Google Home app. Head to Settings > Videos and Photos.

Here’s how to set it up:

  • In the When I say OK Google… text field, type: Where’s Barb?
  • In the Google Assistant should do… text field, type: Start watching Stranger Things on Netflix.

Next time you ask the Assistant or Google Home “Where’s Bob?” your phone or the nearest Chromecast device will resume Stranger Things where you left off.

Turn up the TV

If you have a Logitech Harmony Hub, you can control your TV’s volume level with a straightforward command.

Here’s how to set it up:

  • In the When I say OK Google… text field, type: Turn up the TV.
  • In the Google Assistant should do… text field, type: Ask Harmony to increase the volume.

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This article and images was originally posted on [Digital Trends] May 21, 2017 at 02:49AM

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