Silicon Valley is wising up to the fact that if the world's biggest tech companies want to do no evil, that means including features to help us switch off from always-on, always-present apps, skills and service.
Ambient computing is great when it sits in the background and only interrupts us when it's useful and timely, but we're not quite there yet.
Read this: Google Assistant โ the missing manual
So Facebook, Instagram, Google and Apple are all introducing new tools, settings and features to try to improve our relationship with the addictive, sometimes harmful devices and platforms that they've sold us.
The idea being that this improves our attention spans and the overall mental health and wellbeing of us and our households โ or at least restores it to some sort of pre-smartphone levels.
What is Digital Wellbeing?
These well meaning (and very welcome) strategies have various different names โ Apple's is called Screen Time, Facebook's is Time Well Spent โ but Google's gone for Digital Wellbeing when it comes to Android phone usage.
For smart home owners, it's worth knowing that Google has also extended Digital Wellbeing to its Google Home app. It's less focused on screen time, although Google is of course now pushing its Google Home Hub and other third party smart displays which are an extra screen in the house. It's more about taking a break from the internet and keeping everyone in the household safe.
Who's it for?
The Filters will definitely be handy for anyone with kids or who has guests over a lot. And to be honest the Downtime tools, as well as family and homework/bedtime friendly, should come in useful to anyone who falls asleep and wakes up to breaking news/Twitter/Instagram/work emails/calendar alerts โ insert your own mind f*ck here.
Generally, we think you're more likely to use these settings with a smart display than a voice-only smart speaker and it's worth noting these features work with any Google Assistant device โ not just those in the Google Home range. Downtime will work best if you stick to weekly routines more than haphazard schedules.
If you're not sure it's for you, we'd recommend having a look at the options and guidance in the app, maybe trying out the new settings to see what works. Speaking ofโฆ
How to set up Digital Wellbeing for Google Home
Open up the new Google Home app on your iPhone or Android phone and in the redesign you'll see that you now find Settings front and centre in the Home dashboard. You can also access it by going to Accounts then Settings.
Here, in the General section, you should see Digital Wellbeing under Home nickname and Home members. If it's not showing up, that means it hasn't rolled out yet โ it's showing up for some members of Team Ambient but not others right now.
Hit Digital Wellbeing then Set Up then just let Google take you through the steps. It helps if your devices and Rooms are already neat and tidy and labelled correctly.
Once you're done you'll be presented with all the tools you've set up, both Filters and Downtime, which you can then turn off or tweak as you go.
Get started with Filters
First up is Filters. You can choose to filter 'content' i.e. music, videos and other Google Assistant features for everyone or supervised accounts and guests. Supervised accounts are the ones managed by Family Link and guests means anyone who starts chatting to Assistant but who has not been registered with Voice Match.
You can also filter stuff for all devices or specific devices โ so you might not need to filter anything on a bedroom smart speaker, for instance. Just tap your choices till they're highlighted navy blue and hit Next.
For video, choose from Allow any video, Only allow filtered video (via YouTube Kids and YouTube Restricted Mode) or Block all videos.
For music, you can choose to filter out tracks identified as explicit on services including Spotify, YouTube Music and Google Music. You can also choose to Allow any music or Block all music.
You can also do things like only allow 'family-friendly' actions, block calls on certain devices (again handy for kids) and restrict Assistant answers.
How to set up Downtime on Google Home
As for Downtime, you'll then be taken to the Schedule Downtime screen; again it's posed as helpful for families.
As before, you can select specific smart speakers and smart displays or choose to set it up for all your connected speakers. When in Downtime, all music, video and Assistant responses will be blocked. Only alarms and timers will work.
The default day options are School Nights (Sunday through Thursday) then Weekdays and Weekends or you can customise the days. Then you simply set up the start and end time โ the suggestion is 8pm to 6am โ and hit Next.
Are you trying out Digital Wellbeing for Google Home? Let us know in the comments.
Google Home smart speakers
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