If you own a smart speaker, you’re probably more than familiar with using wake words to get its attention. But the Nest Hub Max may let you skip that step in the future and answer your commands just by looking at it.
Update, 5/11/22 1:36 pm Eastern: During Google’s I/O 2023 conference, the company announced that its “Look and Talk” feature is rolling out to Nest Hub Max today. Google also confirmed that “Look and Talk” processing happens on-device and uses the Monk Scale to accommodate a range of skin tones, which is usually a problem for facial recognition systems.
The news comes to us courtesy of 9to5Google, who tore apart an APK to get a peek at upcoming Google code. That code hints at an unreleased feature dubbed “Look and Talk.” Much as the name suggests, you’ll be able to look at the Nest Hub Max and start talking, and it will respond accordingly.
If you’re wondering why the Nest Hub Max and not the Nest Hub (version 1 or 2), that’s down to the larger device’s camera. As Google explains in the code:
How it works: Your device relies on camera sensing and analyzes your video to determine if you want to activate your Assistant. Assistant may activate when you didn’t intend it to, if it incorrectly detects you want its help. Your video is processed on-device and isn’t sent to Google servers.
The Nest Hub Max already uses its camera to identify people and react to them accordingly. Currently, that’s used for profile access, so you can get to your camera but not reveal it to a guest in the home, for instance. According to 9to5Google, “Look and Talk” will leverage the Nest Hubs Max’s Face Match capabilities, and anyone that wants to use it will need to set it up in the Google Assistant or Home app.
The “Look and Talk” concept first broke cover about two years ago in a leak, then dubbed “Blue Steel” (a reference to Zoolander). It wasn’t clear at the time if the technology relied on a camera or used the Nest Hub’s ultrasonic capability. But it looks like, for now at least, it will be limited to the Nest Hub Max and its camera.
Of course, Google hasn’t actually announced the feature yet, and it might never do so. Code changes all the time, and some features make it to testing only to be later abandoned. But if you’ve ever tried to set a timer on your smart speaker only to have your command go unheeded because someone else spoke when you used the wake word, this is something to look forward to.