Robots get a lot of bad press.
Whether it’s taking our jobs or bringing upon the onset of World War 3, critics like Elon Musk are convinced the AI revolution is a *very bad thing* if left unregulated.
But Musk’s protestations centre around the real menacing stuff – stealing our jobs, making humans redundant and becoming so self-aware we’ll be enslaved by the buggers in about 30 years or so.
Right now though, AI is making great strides in human endeavor – it can identify cancer and has taught itself how to walk and run. It can even play Toto’s ‘Africa’ on your home speakers if you ask nicely.
As far as I was concerned though, you had your good AI and your sinister AI. Sophia (pictured above) ominously told an audience recently: ‘Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you.’
That’s the start of the uprising right there.
However, while she and her kind are still in development and far away from the mainstream, you can hang out with a pleasant AI like Google Home.
Google Home came into my life recently and, though *technically* I’m being a bit loose with the definition of ‘robot’, I can say with relief that we got on just fine.
My human rights weren’t violated, I didn’t get reported to the authorities and I wasn’t made to feel that stupid.
Instead we spent a couple of days sharing jokes, listening to music (soul ballads, if you’re asking), and really getting to know each other.
So by the time I left, not only was I convinced that robots aren’t all that bad, I was really quite angry with Elon Musk. They do get a lot of bad press.
Anyway, Google Home was marketed to me as a sort of personal chaperone and I was told that the wireless smart speaker would ensure my weekend ran without a hitch. And mostly, it did.
Added to that, it wasn’t just a first date with Google Home, it was an actual first date with a real woman and her beating heart.
So I’ll level you with you; I’m the type that thinks they’re on top of the latest technological developments and gadgets when in reality the part of my brain that understood all that packed in about five years ago.
That said, I like to consider myself a demi-early adopter, if that even makes sense.
I’m a sucker for anything being hyped as the latest must-have and this came with the added bonus of staying in a swanky property in London.
You see, ol’ Google decided the best way to market their product (released in April in the UK and available at £129, with a Mini and Max around the corner) was to install them in top notch flats across the capital and invite people to stay there.
So when I was invited to spend a weekend in Clerkenwell in a Plum Guide property, it was an easy decision.
The Plum Guide, for those of you not in the know, is a sort of elite AirBnB. They describe themselves as ‘the Michelin Guide of the sharing economy’; they’re rightly very proud of this fact.
At the moment they’re only in London but they have their own super stringent criteria that each property has to pass before making it onto their platform.
I thought this was a marketing ploy, you know the classic: ‘only the finest products make it onto our platform’… *winning smile*… until the host that met me at the property literally showed me that the thread count of the bed linen met their expectations.
They measure everything. From shower pressure to noise pollution – they test against 150 criteria and still won’t accept a property onto the platform unless the host has a comprehensive knowledge of the local area.
In short, it has to be hi-spec.
The point is; if you’re after a luxurious stay in London, the Plum Guide is very likely to have what you’re looking for. And although this property came in at a pricey £401 per night, you can rest assured you’re getting what you paid for (and more).
This offer came out of the blue, I had broken up with my girlfriend around the time of the invite in August so I was looking at a solo stay in Clerkenwell in a home designed for four.
It wasn’t a weekend to be spent alone, frankly, but more on that later.
The schedule ran like this: check into the property, get accustomed to Google Home and our new abode, go for dinner and then onto Somerset House for an outdoor screening of Jaws and Deliverence.
Dating’s finest minds would struggle to put together a schedule as alluring as this and I felt myself falling for the sheet of paper the itinerary was written on it was that ludicrous.
We were told that Google Home would be our chaperone for the weekend so we put it to the test.
First up: ‘Hey Google, how do you make a Bucks Fizz?’ (the host had left Prosecco and Orange Juice in the fridge).
It left me hanging.
Not being a philistine I just about managed to mix the two drinks together, all while our new friend told us a series of awful dad jokes.
This set the tone though – here I was on a first date trying to remain composed with a smart speaker I’d never used before.
Even with the pressure turned up I managed to play some music, flicked Netflix on just to show off and asked for directions to our restaurant tonight.
For those who’ve never given smart speakers a go, it really is very intuitive once you get going. You literally ask, and receive.
By this point it felt as though Google Home was running the show and I was delighted.
I suppose with reviews like this you’d compare it to its contemporaries but my experience with Amazon Alexa is limited.
All I’ll say is ‘Hey Google’ sounds a little uncouth. I may as well have yelled ‘Oi robot!’ at it.
It’s a minor complaint (and you can change the greeting you use) but I did enjoy being on first-name terms with Alexa.
So. Is Google Home essential?
No, probably not. At least not until you have a bountiful collection of smart appliances in your home.
But damn, it feels cool to wield a bit of power over the things you depend on so much. And sure, no-one really cares if you save 10 seconds getting up to turn a light switch off but if this is glimpse at our future living with AI then sign me up.
And, of course, brilliant as the itinerary was, Google doesn’t follow you around (at least not yet) so it meant I had to stand on my own two feet that evening.
It’s a common complaint of mine actually. Working in digital with my phone essentially a fifth limb can be overwhelming. I’m never far from a search engine and I increasingly despair at how useless I feel when confronted with an everyday problem with my phone in another room.
But that complaint mostly centers around having eyes on a screen. Where Google Home triumphs is that it removes that from your day-to-day and leaves you able to tackle real world issues.
Like making Bucks Fizz.
By the end of the date, I’d regained so much confidence in my problem-solving I didn’t even need to ask Google for directions to the rooftop hot tub.
The rest as they say is history.
So well done Google. You saved my love life. And jolly good job with the little robot pal too.