Update 1/20/2022 12:34 PM ET: Good news, sleep-deprived Google Assistant users, the white noise is back to how it was. "There was an issue impacting our white noise experience. It’s fixed now and working as it previously did," a Google spokesperson told Engadget. The original story is below.
In case you didn't know, Google Assistant devices like the Nest Hub can play white noise ambient sound to help you or your young ones get to sleep. However, multiple users have noticed that Google recently changed that to something that loops more frequently and has a muffled sound, according to 9to5Google. As a result, they and their infants and toddlers are apparently losing sleep over it.
"White noise" is among the 14 ambient noises available from Google Assistant, along with "babbling brook," "fireplace," "ocean" and others. You can play them for up to 12 hours if not disabled by a sleep timer, and the 2nd-gen Nest Hub has an "auto-off" feature that turns off the sound once you fall asleep.
Previously, it looped the White Noise sound every hour, but now the sound is repeated every 10 minutes, something users find annoying and repetitive. On top of that, the previously crisp sound file is now apparently "muffled" and quieter than before. "It's a different pitch, almost muffled," said one user. "Very annoying you have to set the volume to 70 percent," another noted.
There are at least 100 complaints along the same lines, with many people saying they use the white noise to get their babies or toddlers to sleep. "I play it every night for my toddler and she's really upset about this change," said one. "Please, let there be a way to get the older version back so we can maintain our sleep schedule and sanity!"
Google may have changed the file to reduce data usage, as one Redditor said that his Mini used about 4GB of data every night just playing Google's ambient noises. Another acknowledged that this is a "first world problem," but it goes to show how tiny changes in widely used technology can cause unintended problems. If you use the old sound and miss it, another Reddit user has uploaded the original to Google Drive, so you could in theory download it and cast to YouTube Music.