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Smart Home

How to string three Google Home commands together

You no longer have to separate all your commands when talking to your Google Home. It can handle three requests at once.

Chris Monroe/CNET

One of the more frustrating experiences when using a smart speaker is trying to accomplish several things at once. For instance, if you want to dim the lights, stream your favorite music and change the volume, it would normally require three separate commands.

For the Google Home, a compromise has arrived. Back in November, Google made it so your Google Home speakers could handle up to two commands to Google Home at once. You could say something like, "OK, Google, turn on the TV and what's the weather?" Your TV with Chromecast will power on and your Google Home will tell you the weather for your location.

Now the company has taken things one step further. The Google Home can now juggle three commands in a single go. You can now say things like:

  • "OK, Google, turn on the office light and play some music and volume 5."
  • "OK, Google, dim the lights play focus music and turn off the TV."
  • "OK, Google, what's the weather and set a timer for 5 minutes and find my phone."

In testing, we found that this was sometimes a bit cumbersome to use. It felt like we were just issuing run-on sentences to Google and hoping it could make sense of what we were saying.

Like before, with two commands at once, not every command is compatible with this feature. It seemingly still overlooks certain commands asking for traffic. And if you try to set a timer as the first command, Google Home might mistake everything you say after that as the actual name of the command. (This happened a few times in our testing.)

I often found myself pausing for a few seconds to gather my thoughts before stringing together three commands. It takes a fair bit more effort to plan everything out, which is partially why I prefer Alexa's way of dealing with multiple commands a bit better.

Instead of trying to parse multiple commands in one go, Alexa will listen for your next instruction for several seconds after she's performed an action. This can go on indefinitely, and when you're done, you can just let Alexa time out or say, "Thank you," or "Stop." In practice, this method seems to be easier to use for both the user and speaker.

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Still, what makes this so neat is that you can pair stringed commands with Shortcuts. Once you figure out the particular wording for a group of commands you like, in the Google Home app (AndroidiOS), you can go to More settings > Shortcuts and create a shortcut called "Focus up" that plays a focus playlist on Spotify, dims the lights and changes the volume to 40 percent. This seems to be the most practical use for multiple commands.