Google is testing an 'easier' smart display interface for the less-savvy

It's starting with residents of select Washington State retirement communities.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Smart displays aren’t simply glorified photo frames anymore. With more and more people staying at home, these devices also provide a window to the homes of loved ones via video cameras. But for the less tech-savvy user who might have recently been gifted with one, setting it up without in-person help might be challenging. Google wants to find a way to make that process easier, and is launching a “new experience” in some retirement communities in Washington State. The company is also sending nearly 1,000 Nest Hub Max devices to residents in seven Merrill Gardens communities in that area, to help those folks connect with loved ones.

With these displays, users can launch video chats over Duo calls and set up rotating photo galleries featuring loved ones and heartwarming memories. But not everyone knows the breadth of what you can do with a Nest Hub Max (or any smart display, for that matter). In the devices it’s sending to Merrill Gardens residents, Google is pre-loading shortlists of contacts to make video calls easier. The test interface will also feature “What can you do?” cards that “act like shortcuts for showing weather reports, setting alarms or playing relaxing sounds,” the company said in a blog post.

Google also explained that it’s conducting this experience “in a way that preserves privacy for the residents,” adding that the devices “are managed on Nest’s fleet management system and run in a ‘signed out’ mode, meaning no audio is stored and all activity is anonymous.”

The company has been exploring ways to get more people using Assistant, and has surveyed users to see if one of the reasons they don’t use the service as much is because they don’t know what it is capable of. Using cards on a smart display is one way to encourage adoption. While the interface is limited to Merrill Gardens residents for now, a Google spokesperson told Engadget that a new experience will eventually roll out that won’t be exactly the same, but based on the same goal.

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