Hey Google sensitivity setting arrives for Google Home and Nest devices

The new setting helps solve the problem of Google Assistant either not hearing its wake word, or accidentally thinking it did hear it.

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Ben Patterson/IDG

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If you’ve been having trouble waking Google Assistant on your Google smart speakers and displays—or, on the flip side, if the assistant is occasionally waking by accident—there’s a new Google Home setting that might help.

Rolling out now to Google Home and Nest devices, the “Hey Google” sensitivity setting lets you determine how sensitive a given device is when it comes to listening for the “Hey Google” or “OK Google” wake words.

You can find the setting (which was originally announced last fall before getting a quick preview a week ago) by opening the Google Home app, tapping one of your Google Home/Nest speakers or displays, and then tapping the Device settings button.

You should see the “Hey Google” sensitivity setting about two-thirds of the way down the Device settings screen. Tap it, then use the slider to make your Google device either more responsive or less responsive to the “Hey Google” or “OK Google” wake words.

hey google sensitivity setting Ben Patterson/IDG

The “Hey Google” sensitivity setting can help solve the problem of Google Assistant either missing its wake word or waking up when it shouldn’t be.

You can set “Hey Google” sensitivity independently for your various Google speakers and displays; just tap the Adjust more devices button to adjust their settings.

The “Hey Google” sensitivity setting addresses a problem for some Google Home and Nest device users: Google Assistant failing to hear the wake word, or waking inadvertently because she thought she heard the wake word. Beyond merely being an annoyance, a too-sensitive Google Assistant who’s unexpectedly waking up and surreptitiously listening in on conversations is a serious privacy concern.

A good practice for the “Hey Google” sensitivity setting would be to boost the sensitivity if you Google device is in a noisy environment (like a kitchen), and to lower its sensitivity in a quieter room (like a bedroom).

If you’re really worried about Google Assistant listening in when she shouldn’t be, you could enable a setting that makes your device beep when Assistant wakes up, and then beep again when it goes back to sleep.

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