You may soon be able to activate your smart speaker by just looking at it

google-nest-hub-max-wooden-table (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google has reportedly been testing a new Nest Hub feature, codenamed "Blue Steel."
  • The feature seems to use the Nest Hub's ultrasound sensing to trigger Google Assistant when the user walks up to it.
  • It's uncertain whether or not the feature will officially come to Nest Hub devices.

According to a leaked internal firmware of the Nest Hub Max, Google has reportedly been working on a new feature that allows users to activate Google Assistant without having to say "Hey Google," or "OK Google."

The leak comes from known tipster Jan Boromeusz, who also unveiled the Nest Hub's new overhauled UI and dark mode before Google's official announcement. Check out the video below to see the unreleased feature in action.

In the video, Jan is using a Google Nest Hub Max with supposedly internal firmware meant only for Google employees. When Jan walks into the room, Google Assistant pops up right away to wait for a voice command. When Jan stays still or doesn't say anything, the Assistant goes away by itself. Jan is also able to reactive the Assistant as soon as he moved a little closer to the Nest Hub Max.

Based on the video, the new feature seems to be using the Nest Hub's built-in ultrasound sensing technology, which sends out ultrasonic pulses to sense nearby users and adapt its UI accordingly. Jan's Nest Hub Max appears to automatically trigger Google Assistant whenever the user is nearby. Without a repetitive required activation voice command, the feature would allow users to have a more convenient experience in directly controlling their Nest Hubs and connected smart home devices.

Obviously, however convenient this feature may be, it would most likely result in a lot of accidental activations and may be at the cost of privacy with Google's smart displays randomly listening in on user conversations. Fortunately, the feature is only in its internal testing stages and may never roll out to actual Nest Hub owners. Also, while it's not entirely clear that the feature relies on ultrasound sensing or facial recognition, users do have the option to disable all these sensors on their Nest Hubs.

If you're not too worried about this feature and thinking about getting your own smart display, make sure you take a look at the best smart displays you can buy right now.

Nest Hub Max

Nest Hub Max

One of the best all-in-ones for the smart home.

The Nest Hub Max offers a killer 10" display, great audio quality, and smart camera features to make this an all-in-one no-brainer not only for Nest users, but for anyone wanting to start their own smart homes.

Ho Young Won