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Is Google Home Fit For Elderly and Disabled Users? ( 93

Chances are either you or someone you know received a Google Home over the holidays. Not only are they being marketed heavily by Google but they seem to have appeared in almost every "Holiday Gift Guide" on the internet. Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein brings up an interesting dilemma: is Google Home fit for the elderly? Weinstein writes: You cannot install or routinely maintain Google Home units without a smartphone and the Google Home smartphone app. There are no practical desktop based and/or remotely accessible means for someone to even do this for you. A smartphone on the same local Wi-Fi network as the device is always required for these purposes. This means that many elderly persons and individuals with physical or visual disabilities -- exactly the people whose lives could be greatly enhanced by Home's advanced voice query, response, and control capabilities -- are up the creek unless they have someone available in their physical presence to set up the device and make any ongoing configuration changes. Additionally, all of the "get more info" links related to Google Home responses are also restricted to the smartphone Home app.
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Is Google Home Fit For Elderly and Disabled Users?

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  • Gee (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I don't know. Can it pick stuff up around the house? Can it actually help a person with physical needs?

    Quit buying crap that doesn't do stuff. "Tells you things" is not doing things.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I have a grandfather who has lost most of his vision. Before he lost his vision his primary sources of entertainment were reading and listening to music. When family came over he would discuss what he had read with other people. As he lost his vision he slowly lost a lot of what he had to do with his time. After getting an Alexa he started being able to read and listen to music again.

      No, a Google home cannot pick things up, but there are other needs in life than moving heavy objects.

  • So, you can't use a tablet?

    How about using an Android emulator?
    • I bought a Google Home Mini for my grandfather. Admittedly the smartphone requirement is a bit of a pain in the ass, but I installed an Android emulator on his PC and made sure that it always remains on. The last time the Home needed an update, I logged in to his computer remotely, fired up the emulator with the Home app installed and since the PC is on the same WiFi it worked flawlessly, saving a 90 mile round trip.
      • by thsths ( 31372 )

        That seems to confirm the original story: for a normal computer user, it would be impossible to maintain a Google Home remotely. Even you have to go through great pain and electricity expense to do so, and you are probably breaking some ToS.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Old and disabled people need more appy apps

  • No 911 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Until they make 911 calling available on it, it's greatest potential benefit will be missing.

  • I wonder why the elderly, or anybody thinking this through, would prefer to enunciate "Ok google, turn the bedroom lights on", so that the device (close enough to hear this command) can process the words over the internet and instruct a bunch of smart bulbs to wake up and light up.

    Instead of just flicking a switch.

    And that's assuming it works and everything magically configures itself, which never happens.

    People are so fucking stupid. Bad enough they inflict this on themselves, but their elderly relat

    • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

      Are you really unaware how many people have mobility and/or dexterity problems? Just getting to and 'flicking a switch' can be risky and painful.

      • by DrXym ( 126579 )
        Then you get a bigger switch, a draw string with a triangular pull handle at one end, or even a motion sensor. The sort of thing that has been perfected for years in assisted living facilities, adapted living situations. None of which requires speaker/microphones arranged throughout the house, smart bulbs, or a wifi connection.

        This isn't hard.

        • And who decided that a drawstring is the end of perfection and progress should not continue to other assistant devices such as voice control?

          • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

            Usually it's the person who's helping to setup the persons home/apt/etc for them. There's an entire long flowchart of shit you go through when you're doing this. Not only do you need to keep in mind the use-of-access options for the person, but you also don't want to go so far down the path where you're belittling the person either, this is doubly true for elderly and those who've suffered strokes. The "loss of access/mobility" is more likely to drive a person closer to suicide the closer you move to thi

          • I recently discovered one problem with a drawstring. My mom was visiting me, and we were on our way out the door. She reached to turn off the living room light, and couldn't reach the damn cord! I'm over a foot taller than she, and never even noticed how high the string was. Obviously, they didn't have short people in mind when they put it in like that.

            • OK.. but to be fair, knotting another string to it could be done faster than setting up a Google Home...

              I'd be more worried about people getting caught in dangling drawstrings.

        • I'm sorry, but you really need to actually deal with some disabled people before you dismiss their problems so lightly. One of my best friends is severely disabled (multiple sclerosis, as it happens.) He's bedridden, of course, and due to his condition is often unable to use his hands well enough to pull on a drawstring and a simple motion sensor would be worthless given the complexity of his controls requirements. Indeed, your solutions simply would not work for him (or the bulk of similarly disabled indiv
    • It's difficult to judge something which you have not tried yourself.

      I am quadriplegic, meaning I'm in a powerchair and in addition my hands and arms are partially paralysed. I believe I'm a subset of the people mentioned in the title.

      I can drive over to the switches/thermostats and reach them if I angle my chair so the better arm can reach over, one thermostat I have to reach with a stick (and if it's set wrong after I'm in bed I will suffer all night) but it's many times easier and faster to just yell at G

  • by PhantomHarlock ( 189617 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2017 @06:17PM (#55811839)
    SNL covered this topic well. []

  • As far as I can tell it's a novel gift marketed to young, technically adept people that want a new, but unnecesary, toy. So why complain it's hard for the elderly to use when it was never designed to work in that market?

    • Why open yourself to lawsuits by marketed toward elderly or disabled?
    • methinks you misspelled 'inept'?

  • Google Home is totally fit for the elderly.

    On a related note, I have cancelled all my old email addresses and phones and gone to a different one, and removed all my elderly relatives from my contact lists.

    You guys have fun doing the tech support calls. My mom couldn't even use a Mac without needing tech support ... most of which was "plug it in, does it say found device, click on Ok, you're done, stop phoning me at 3 am".

  • Thank you Betteridge for giving me an excuse not to RTFA!
  • YES!!!!! (Score:3, Informative)

    by qxy ( 5207105 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2017 @07:25PM (#55812231)
    Yes! A /. story I'm at the bleeding edge of. My upper 80s grandmother lives in an assisted living facility. After trying a Google Home myself, I immediately bought one for her about a year ago. She absolutely loves the thing. She only uses it for the weather, to turn her TV on and off (I set up IFFTT), and occasionally stock prices and other facts, not anywhere near what it is able to do. Nevertheless, she loves how simple it is for her to have access to stuff she previously found confusing (TV remotes), precise weather info isn't easy to get if you don't have a smartphone, etc. I also don't get calls anymore about how to use the TV. I haven't yet had a circumstance yet where I needed to make configuration changes that couldn't wait till the next time I visited and the one time it stopped working Grandma knew enough to unplug it, wait a bit, and hope it would work and it did. And there's lots of things I can set up remotely if I need to. I previously tried giving her an Amazon Echo and while she occasionally used it, it was very frustrating to her because Alexa seems to require you to speak things in a certain way. However, the Google Assistant is much more flexible in the phrasing and order of words. She's had mini-strokes in the past and doesn't always use the exact words you'd expect for what she's trying to say but you do understand what she's getting at. Google seems to get her meaning better. (That's not to say it's perfect. There are times it doesn't understand her, but its success rate is way higher than Alexa). Additionally she's a very devout woman and the Google Home (which plays sound from YouTube) has a much better selection of religious stuff than Amazon's offerings, because YouTube has a large collection of such material. If she weren't living in a single room in a assisted living facility (with staff to help her), I'd start installing smart devices like the Nest and anything else you could control with the Google Assistant in her home, because she really seems to get it in a way she doesn't with other things. Also, on my end, Google (and Alexa) store audio recordings in the cloud of what was asked. I like being able to check her Google account to see if how she's doing (i.e. if she's following her usual patterns) without having to bother her. Yes, she knows that I can do that and approves. I could go on and on about this but besides moving her into assisted living, the Google Home has really been the next best help for us. I always joke with her that if someone had told her, even five years ago, that she would be talking to an air freshener when she's in her upper 80s, she would think she got dementia in her old age. But instead she's the most with it person there! What a change in her lifetime! I want to get her into a self driving car next.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I personally think the OP missed the point of asking this question. A better question would be "Is the google home fit for the technically challenged?" Personally I am currently 74 years old and slightly disabled (back problems and arthritis). I bought myself one and love it and have added a mini. My biggest challenge with it is getting my two granddaughters who live with me (26 and 19 years old) to learn to use them and to quit turning off the damn switches which kills the Phillips Hue bulbs. It doesn

  • Not only are they being marketed heavily by Google but they seem to have appeared in almost every "Holiday Gift Guide" on the internet.

    Normally, you don't put "Not only" at the beginning of a sentence that goes [generality] -> [specific]. I would have written the sentence "they being marketed heavily by Google, for instance, they seem to have appeared in almost every \"Holiday Gift Guide\" on the internet."

    People know that those guides are paid for content, right?

  • Linked from Three Quarters of Android Apps Track Users With Third Party Tools [] A printed list of sites to add to Google Homes router []

  • No. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cute-boy ( 62961 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2017 @09:01PM (#55812757) Journal

    "OK Google, my house is on fire"
    "Playing This house is on fire by AC/DC on Google Play music"

    2nd and subsequent attempts:

    "OK Google, my house is on fire"
    "OK, I'll remember that"

    Google home has little genuine usefulness in general beyond novelty, and it is not suitable for people if they do not already have a ability to already use technology and a comprehension of it's many current limitations in consumer grade products.

    Way too much of "Sorry", and it's lack of understanding of even the simplest ability to have a conversation to learn the context of a command really makes it only a small step forwards from talking dolls for children. Even if someone does have a control device, the propensity of the system to answer on the wrong device (which lacks the functionality of the other) means if the control device is in ear-shot, it makes life even worse. Here are some examples:

    "OK Google, help I've fallen over"
    "Sorry, I don't understand"

    "OK Google, call care line"
    "Sorry I can't make calls yet"

    "OK Google, call the ambulance"
    "Sorry, I can't help with that yet"

    "OK Google, switch on the kitchen lights"
    "My apologies, I don't understand"

    Like much consumer technology, I suspect most are are destined for land fill, perhaps having provided a few moments of novelty.

    • That's my experience. I've used several assistants, and they all fail to understand my requests. They'll skip words, lose context for follow-up requests, and do a lot of really stupid web searches. Want a reminder for the next time you're at Home Depot? You'll get that reminder next time you're home. Want to call your wife? "I'm sorry, I don't know who your wife is." Next query - "My wife is Anonymous Coward" and it'll ignore your address book entry (that has the relationship) and perform a web search.

      I ha

    • Yeah, that's the problem. I'd love to have something that would call for assistance if my mom had "fallen and I can't get up!", but only if it really worked when needed.

  • Lauren Weinstein used to be a paid Google shill. []

    Now his contract has been terminated and he seems to have become an anti-Google shill. I'm not sure if he's being paid for this or if it's pro bono.

  • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
    Why would anyone allow their family to be spied on by an advertizing company?
    Words spoken, search terms, comments been sent to some advertizing company?
  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Tuesday December 26, 2017 @11:20PM (#55813265)

    So sorry you're a senior disabled person who lives alone with no friends and no neighbors and no one to help you.

    Those of us like me -- healthy, young-ish, homeowners -- depend on at least a hundred people every year for the very basics of living.

    I can't fix a serious plumbing issue, and you can't plunge a toilet remotely either, by the way.

    I can't diagnose why my car keeps blowing a fuse, and since it's the anti-theft system fuse, you'd need to be a dealer to reprogram the keys anyway.

    I might be able to clean my furnace and my fire place and my air conditioner twice a year, but I wouldn't be able to fix what might need fixing, nor be certain that I didn't break it trying to clean it.

    I don't repair porcelain tiles.

    I can paint, and I can even make small drywall repairs, but I can't do large drywall repairs.

    Electrician, I am not, so anything beyond a simple outlet or basic switch, and I'm S.O.o.L..

    I don't walk on rooves.

    I don't pave driveways, although sealing is easy.

    I cut grass, but not trees.

    I cook, but don't repair kitchen appliances.

    This concept of needing to be able to control every device with ease is a naive attitude of the I.T. industry. It's ridiculous. Do you hem your own pants? Most people buy pre-washed lettuce.

  • by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:16AM (#55813413)

    "Chances are either you or someone you know received a Google Home over the holidays."

    Wrong on both counts.

  • I bought Google Home for my blind friend. He is thrilled about it. However he woudn't be able to set it up without my help. He doesn't have a smartphone, I had to bring in my tablet set up another account with his Google creds in order to activate Google Home. Despite the usefulness, Google Home still lacks simple features important to the blind. For example, it can't read Gmail emails or contacts.
  • by davmoo ( 63521 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @11:56AM (#55815475)

    I always get a kick out of reading the comments when Slashdot posts something like this. The majority of the comments on stories like these can be summed up in two sentences..."I don't have a use for this type of item nor have I ever owned one or any of its competitors, so I have no actual experience or knowledge to base my comment on. But because I don't like them nobody else should use them either, and anyone who does is a fucking idiot".

    But at the same time, these comments also show how far Slashdot has degenerated over the years. Now every fourth comment is something like "This device is spying on you!!!!!!!!!!!1111111oneoneoneone". Back in the day, the average Slashdot reader was smart enough to have already fired up packet sniffing software and checked it out for themselves.

    Now, to get back on topic. My 80 year old mother does not use Google Home. But she does have a couple of Amazon Echo Dots that I bought and set up for her. Their primary use is for daily news, weather information, music, and clocks and timers. She thinks its wonderful. That's good enough for me.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire