February 01, 2018 Technology

Product Note: Building a Smarter Office with the Google Home Mini

By Ashley Hallene

The latest item to find its way to my desk at work is the Google Home Mini, a smart speaker equipped with a Google-powered digital assistant. One of my goals this year is to simplify and automate as many aspects of my life as I reasonably can. One of the means to that end has been adding the Google Home Mini to my office hardware tools. Google’s lineup of digital assistants includes the Google Home ($99), Google Home Mini ($39), and the Google Home Max ($399). As the names might suggests, Google appears to be appealing to users who appreciate minimalism and seek simplification.

The setup for the Mini is very fast. You start by downloading the free Google Home App (available for Android or iOS). From there, the app will walk you through the steps. You can connect your Google accounts through the app so the Mini can access your existing information.

Out of the box, the Mini looks like a smooth stone you would see at a spa or during a hot stone massage. It is more visually appealing than its competitor, the comparably priced Amazon Echo Dot. But costs and looks aside, how does it perform for office tasks?

If you incorporate methods such as the Pomodoro technique into your work routine, you could start your interval by speaking, “Okay Google, set a timer for 25 minutes,” to which Google Assistant would respond, “Alright, 25 minutes, starting now.” If you have to step out of the office and do not want your timer going off steadily in your absence, you can say, “Okay Google, cancel the timer.” I used this to try to incorporate physical activity into my work day, setting a timer for 55 minutes with the idea to get up and walk around for five minutes in order to get more steps in the day. You do not have to open any additional phone apps or computer programs.

If you use Google Apps for e-mail and calendar, you can connect those to the Google Home App. Then when someone sends you a text, you can say, “Okay Google, add lunch with Jack at 1:00 pm today to my calendar,” and within moments the appointment will appear blocked off on your calendar. I was disappointed that it appears it could not add to the calendar in the past. For example, when I asked it to “add conference call with client at 9:30 am to my calendar today,” because I gave the instruction in the afternoon, Google Assistant tried to add it to my calendar for 9:30 am the next day. When I told it to edit the entry to today, it failed to add anything.

You can run basic searches simply by posing the question, “Okay Google . . . .” (“Hey Google” is also allowed), then following it with your inquiry:

  • Okay Google, how many liters are in two gallons?
  • Okay Google, how much sugar is in a cheesecake?
  • Okay Google, what does stare decisis mean?
  • Okay Google, when is St. Patrick’s Day?

I could go on, but you get the idea. The assistant can provide useful reminders at your beck and call, too. Rather than interrupt your workflow, you can say “Okay Google, remind me to leave the office at 4:00 today,” or “Okay Google, remind me to call Alexander Bell back in 30 minutes.” This can be useful for recurring reminders as well, such as “Okay Google, remind me to take medications at 10:30 am every day.”

The more smart technology that you have around the office, the more you can do with the Home Mini as well. If your office uses one of the supported smart thermostats, you can adjust the temperature around your office. You can have a little fun with it, too; you can program phrases to trigger certain actions. For instance, if you set up smart bulbs, you can program the Home Mini to turn off all the lights when you say, “Okay Google, Elvis has left the building.”

For more fun, try some of these voice prompts:

  • Okay Google, tell me a joke.
  • Okay Google, what am I thinking right now?
  • Okay Google, crystal ball. (This starts a game where you can ask the Home Mini a question for a “crystal ball” response.)
  • Okay Google, talk like Yoda.

Ashley Hallene is a petroleum landman at Alta Mesa Holdings, LP, and practices Oil and Gas law, Title Examination, Due Diligence, Acquisitions and Oil and Gas Leasing in Houston, Texas. She maintains a diverse solo practice on the side. Ashley is the coauthor of the technology overview Making Technology Work for You (A Guide for Solo and Small Firm Attorneys) along with attorney Jeffrey Allen. She has published articles on legal technology in GPSolo Magazine, GPSolo eReport, and the TechnoLawyer Newsletter. Ashley is an active member of the American Bar Association’s General Practice Solo & Small Firm Division, ABA’s Young Lawyers Division, the Texas Young Lawyers Association, the Houston Young Lawyers Association, and the Houston Association of Petroleum Landmen. She frequently speaks in technology CLEs and is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Technology and Reviews Department of the GPSolo eReport. She may be reached at ahallene@hallenelaw.com.