The new feature, which is being tested internally by Google, could eliminate the need for a user to say “Hey Google” before speaking commands to Nest Hub smart displays, according to Android Central. Instead, a feature codenamed “Blue Steel” will allow the device to simply sense the user’s presence and listen in advance for their commands. There will be no need to say the greeting command first.
The functionality has already been demonstrated in a video posted on YouTube by Jan Boromeus before its official announcement. In the video, you can see how Boromeus asks for various information without ever saying the words “Hello Google”. Its Nest Hub Max smart display is said to have leaked internal firmware intended for testing at Google, and it’s unclear if the company plans to publicly release this functionality.
The Nest Hub Max is supposed to use existing ultrasonic sensing to sense the presence of a person and start listening to it. Currently, smart display uses this functionality to simply customize the information displayed. However, in the future, this same technology may allow him to hear voice commands when he knows the user is nearby. Ars Technica suggests the device could also use its camera’s Face Match feature to better understand who’s speaking and making sounds. Boromeusch in the video showed the ability to turn Blue Steel on and off in the smart display settings menu.
Despite its convenience, Blue Steel’s technology raises concerns about potential privacy concerns, The Verge notes. A key element of today’s smart speakers and displays is that they only pay attention to what you say after they hear a welcome word. By relying solely on “proximity detection”, the user increases the risk that devices will hear something they are not supposed to hear.
However, Blue Steel can be a useful additional feature for some users. Having to repeat “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” over and over before each voice command can be a problem, and this potentially makes it much faster and easier to access the information you need.