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How to make Google Assistant do several things at once with Routines

Following in Alexa's footsteps, Google launches six routines to simplify your smart home

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Announced back in October last year, Google has finally made Routines available on the Google Assistant. This means that when you issue a single spoken command to your Android smartphone or Google Home speaker, the assistant will perform several related tasks at once.

Here's the GearBrain guide to what Google Assistant Routines are, and how to make them work to take greater control of your smart home.

How to activate Google Assistant Routines:

  1. Open the Google Home app
  2. Tap the menu icon in the top left corner
  3. Tap 'More Settings'
  4. Scroll down and a new Routines button will appear under News in the Services section

From launch, only six Routines are available and each performs a set of predefined actions. Unlike with Alexa, these cannot be configured to do as you want, and disappointingly there is little in the way of smart home device control, beyond the very basics.

Below are the six Routines available now, and what each of them can do when activated. You can set Google Assistant to do as many or as few action as you like, and actions like switching lights off and adjusting the heating can be set to how you want them. To activate the Routines, say its name to Google Assistant.

Routines work on Google speakers like this Home MiniGearBrain

Good morning:

  • Take your Android phone off of silent mode
  • Adjust lights, plugs and thermostat to your predefined preference
  • Assistant reads out today's weather, followed by details of your commute and any delays, then your calendar events for the day, and reminders
  • Play music, news or a radio station, or an audiobook or podcast from where you left off

Bedtime:

  • Switch your Android phone to silent
  • Read out tomorrow's weather forecast and your first calendar event
  • Set an alarm to wake up
  • Adjust lights, plugs and thermostat to your predefined settings
  • Play music with a sleep timer, or sleep sounds like rain or white noise

Leaving home:

  • Adjust lights, plugs and thermostat to your predefined settings

I'm home:

  • Adjust lights, plugs and thermostats to your predefined settings
  • Broadcast a message to your Google Home speakers to say you are home
  • Read out your home-based reminders
  • Adjust media volume
  • Play music, news or radio, or podcasts and audiobooks from where you left off

Commuting to work (available on iOS and Android devices only, not through a Google Home speaker):

  • Brief you on your commute and mention any traffic delays
  • Read the weather forecast, your calendar events for today and your reminders
  • Adjust lights, plugs and thermostats to your predefined settings
  • Adjust media volume
  • Play music, news, radio, podcasts and audiobooks

Commuting home (available on iOS and Android devices only, not through a Home speaker):

  • Inform you about your commute and traffic ahead
  • Adjust lights, plugs and thermostat to your predefined settings
  • Send a predefined text message (such as one telling your partner you have left the office)
  • Read unread text messages
  • Broadcast to Home speakers than you are on your way back
  • Adjust media volume
  • Play music, news, radio, podcasts and audiobooks from where you left off

At first glance this seems like a fairly comprehensive start by Google, but there are some strange omissions. For example, text messages can be sent when you head home from work, but not when you go to work in the morning. It also isn't possible to play podcasts, audiobooks or the radio when you got to bed, yet playing music in this Routine is possible.

It also isn't clear if Routines can only send text messages, or if they can send messages through other services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

This is still a decent start from Google and means you can control a lot of smart home basics - like lights, the heating and anything connected to a smart plug - with one voice command. But we'd like to see the option to mix and match commands more between different routines. Hopefully more functionality will be added by Google soon.

Don't forget to check out The GearBrain, our new compatibility checker which will show you what works with Google Home and Google Home Mini.

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