Google is rolling out its clever ultrasound technology to the Google Nest Hub (neé Google Home Hub) and the Nest Hub Max, allowing these smart home devices to know where we are without using a camera.
Ultrasound sensing is a smart workaround for the fact the original Nest Hub (née Google Home Hub) doesn’t feature a camera. By using high-frequency sounds, the smart display can tell whether you’re in the same room as it is, in addition to your approximate position. It will then use this information to adjust its interface. For instance, when you’re farther away from the Nest Hub, it will increase the size of its fonts to make them more legible. It will do the same with a variety of information cards. With weather cards, for example, the Nest Hub will display more detailed forecasts while sticking with just the essentials like the current temperature when you’re looking at it from a distance.
According to Cnet, the technology works by emitting tiny inaudible chirps that “bounce off objects in the environment, reflect to the microphones and tell the device if someone is near”.
The Nest Hub comes with a 7-inch screen and it comes with a host of interesting features such as Digital Wellbeing, Live Photos, and Ambient EQ and routines that are aimed at making users’ lives simpler.
The feature also allows the Nest Hub to surface something called proactive notifications. Google introduced this functionality with the Nest Hub Max. Without a camera to see who’s looking at it, the Nest Hub won’t tailor these notifications as the Nest Hub Max does; instead, it will show notifications that are available to everyone in your home. On the Nest Hub, ultrasound sensing is a way to use all of the above features while keeping the inside of your home private.
What about Nest smart speakers without a display? Well, the Google Nest Mini utilizes this technology to control the LED lights built into its fabric grille; when audio is playing, the LEDs will light up as you approach the speaker to help you see the volume buttons.
It’s not clear whether it will be possible to turn this feature off – after all, nobody wants to be blinded by their smart display when they wander into the kitchen at night.