An assistant in your phone

By | August 8, 2022
This content is 2 years old. Please, read this page keeping its age in mind. Thank you.

If you have a smartphone, tablet or smart speaker you’ll almost certainly have a “personal digital assistant” – even some TVs have them these days!  You’ve probably heard of them even if you’ve never used one.  Google has the “Google Assistant”, Apple has “Siri” and Amazon has “Alexa” (there are a handful of others too, but those are the main three).

Basically, they’re a way of asking questions or giving instructions in normal English that your phone, tablet or whatever can understand.  Let’s say I wanted to hear a particular piece of music, I could open the Google Assistant on my phone and ask for it.  So, I just said to the assistant on my phone “play Depeche Mode on YouTube Music”, and it opened the app and started playing Enjoy the Silence.  Good choice Google.

But before you can give your instruction or ask your question, you have to open the assistant.  There’s always a way to do that by pressing a button or swiping on the screen, but if you don’t want to use your hands at all you can use a “wake word” instead.

You usually need to set these up first, so your device is listening for the word, but then all you have to do to open the assistant is say that word or phrase.  The wake words for the main three are “OK Google” (or “Hey Google” works, too), “Hey Siri” and “Alexa”.  If you’re not sure whether it’s turned on on your phone or tablet, try unlocking your device and then saying the wake word.  If the assistant opens, job’s a good’n.  If not, you’ll need to turn it on in the settings.

On an iPhone or iPad, open your Settings app and look for Siri settings.  One of the options will be to turn on “Hey Siri”.  You can turn it on or off here whenever you like.

On an Android phone or tablet, follow these instructions from Google to get it set up.

On other devices like the Google Nest or Amazon Echo, you’ll need to dig out the instructions that came with it.

These things can be pretty handy once you get used to them.  I use the Google Assistant a lot when the boys are fighting over exactly which Pokemon has which attacks, or where the best place is to find diamonds in Minecraft (yes – this is my life).  I just tell them to stop yelling at each other and ask Google – it usually works!

If you have a device that uses Alexa, you actually have a few options for wake words.  If you want to pretend you’re Captain Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard, you can set it to wake up to “Computer”.  Or if you’re a David Bowie fan, how about “Ziggy”?  If you want to switch to one of these, all you need to do is open Alexa and say “Alexa, change your wake word”.  It will give you a list of options to choose from, and you just need to say the one you want.  This can be handy if you’ve got two different devices that both use Alexa – you can have one set to respond to one word and the other set to respond to a different one.

I wonder if I could train the boys in the same way?  “Hey Alastair, put the kettle on”… I’m not holding my breath…

Leave a Reply

The name you enter will be displayed. We collect your email address but do not display it. Full privacy policy here. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.