Saying ‘OK Google’ is awful, but Google may be open to changing it

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Here’s a 1 percenter problem: I have both an Amazon Echo and a Google Home in our apartment, and so I could theoretically use whichever one is better. In a lot of ways, I think the Google Home is better: it sounds nicer, it works with my television, and it knows a lot of personal information that I haven’t bothered to try to make available on Amazon’s Alexa.

But I usually just go with Alexa, because “Alexa” is way easier to say than “OK Google.”

Rishi Chandra, VP for Google Home, tells me he’s heard that feedback. In fact, feedback along those lines is one of the reasons that you can say “Hey Google” instead of “OK Google” to activate the Google Home. But is Google open to adding another, easier-to-say hot word to its Assistant?

Maybe!

Here’s the story: Google decided not to give its intelligent assistant a name like Siri or Alexa or Cortana or whatever. Instead, it’s just the Google Assistant. There are nice things about that name: it’s genderless, it tells you what the thing is, and for Google, it signals that it’s a core product for the future of the company.

All of which makes Google “cautious” about throwing another hot word into the mix, according to Chandra. Because that new hot word might end up becoming what people call its assistant. Chandra is clear that Google isn’t religious about never adding another one, and it is listening to feedback from people like me who end up nearly swallowing their tongues when they try to say “OK Google” for the fifth time in a row. But he doesn’t want to make any quick changes without fully thinking through those implications.

As I wrote earlier today, a cautious approach to how to turn AI into consumer interfaces is kind of Google’s new thing, and in that context I don’t hate the decision to think through hot words really carefully. I just hate saying “OK Google.”

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