Google did something downright awesome this past week. While Apple and Intel and T-mobile and Sprint were dominating tech news, Google quietly announced that it has 100,000 Home Minis to give out to people who will put them to great use because they are paralyzed or partially paralyzed.
Partnering with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Google has set aside 100,000 little bits of plastic and silicon that can make a pretty big impact on the lives of people who could use the extra help. Reeve Foundation Ambassador Garrison Redd knows all too well about the impact a small smart speaker can have as he's been wheelchair-bound for almost 20 years. I also know how much help those little speakers and associated smart gadgets can be because they have also made quite the difference in my own life.
I'm not paralyzed, but living your life in a wheelchair can make things pretty difficult. The world is designed for and by people who are able to walk about, reach the things on the top shelf, and live their lives without asking for help when the doorbell rings or the heat needs to be bumped up a notch. It should be — I can't speak for everyone who is disabled, but I've never met anyone in a wheelchair who thinks the world should be designed for "us" instead of "them". Being confined to a hunk of metal tubing on wheels doesn't make me less of a person or some sort of freak, but it isn't the norm and the world doesn't need to revolve around it.
That line of thinking can go completely out the window when the FedEx delivery driver is waiting at the door upstairs for you to sign for a package or the ceiling fan isn't running and someone needs to reach up and yank the chain. It's easy to think everything is bad because you feel like a failure, especially when it's those little inconsequential things that are making you feel that way. Something like a smart speaker attached to a Nest Hello Doorbell (opens in new tab) turns everything around and I feel great because I can tell the FedEx driver to hang tight because it takes me a while to make it up the stairs.
There are a lot of people out there who have it worse than I do and if a Google Home Mini can make a change for the better in their lives, they all ought to have one. Thanks, Google for stepping up and doing something good for people who need more good things in their lives. I hope this program is a smashing success however the company measures it and we see another 100,000 Home Minis go out to people who need them.
Several years ago before the smart speaker revolution and before Google Assistant and other assistants became more capable, I gifted my blind brother in law a cheap ($29) Windows phone and an Xbox One. He used Cortana on the Windows phone to play music and get information via voice and he used the Xbox one with Kinect to control his TV and cable box via voice. Saying Hey Cortana, play song X, what day is it, call my sister, what is the forecast, where am I and Xbox On, Xbox turn to ESPN, Xbox volume up, Xbox mute the TV and more was sincerely life changing for him. Using early voice assistants back in 2013-2015 really helped him gain some of his independence back after losing his eyesight and for that, I am grateful.
Great piece, Jerry. Those of us who don't live with disabilities or poverty often take the conveniences in life for granted. It's nice to be reminded that technologies that make my day a little easier can be life-changing for others.
yes!! there is further information on Askmeter.com
Don't be so naive. The one and only reason Google has been giving them away, and selling them so cheap is to make sure big brother is in every house... They are great though!! I got one for my disabled father to turn off and on lights, and set the thermostat.
I wonder which (if any) privacy controls could be changed directly through the Google Home Mini without resorting to the separate piece of hardware and how private the default settings of the said Google Home Mini are. Answers to those questions will help drawing the line between helping someone in need and taking advantage of the vulnerable.
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