Google finally recognizes “Hey Google” and meetings don’t mix well
Google Meet business hardware only listens for the hotword within 10 minutes of hybrid meetings
Smart speakers can be incredibly handy, but even six years after Google released the first Google Home speaker, these devices tend to feel addressed when you’re not talking to them. You probably know this problem all too well if you own a smart speaker, even if you don’t say anything resembling “Hey Google” or “Alexa.” Apparently, this issue has so annoyed employees with work Google Meet devices in meeting rooms that Google has had to turn off hotword detection by default most of the time.
Unlike smart speakers meant for your home, these office machines are focused on making video conferencing and the new post-pandemic “hybrid working model” as convenient as possible. They are designed to serve as companion devices in meeting rooms, helping employees connect with remote colleagues as seamlessly as possible. However, just like your personal smart speaker, these devices seem to have a tendency to interpret random words as “Hey Google” or “Okay Google.” To avoid these accidental call triggers, Google writes that the assistant is “only active when a device is not in a meeting and within 10 minutes of an upcoming meeting.” This results in those devices being idle most of the time lose Google Assistant support.
Google goes on to explain the reasoning behind the move, writing, “We know that voice control of ‘Hey Google’ provides an easy and convenient way to join an upcoming meeting or improve accessibility for users. However, we’ve heard from our customers that with the increase in teams transitioning to hybrid meetings, the “Hey Google” control can be unintentionally triggered during meetings. We hope this improvement will help reduce accidental disconnects during your calls.”
Google’s hotword detection can be a big problem in video conferencing, especially if you’re in the tech industry and constantly talking about the company. Anecdotally, here at Android Police, we’ve had someone’s Google Nest trigger at least once during a call in any given week, and that’s without ever physically meeting each other. Because Google hardware doesn’t constantly stream audio back to Google servers while listening for the hotword, there is limited onboard processing power for these devices to use, leading to many false positives. Getting rid of hotword detection on Meet devices might seem like the nuclear option, but it’s probably the smartest thing to do for the sanity of office workers.
Admins can enable or disable voice control at the device level, and the end-user toggle on the devices themselves has been removed to ensure the hardware is always in the expected state for future use.