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31 Mar 2020

How to make the most of Google Assistant during the lockdown

Stuck inside and need entertaining? Google Assistant can help with games, fitness routines and dinner ideas

As we're forced to spend more time inside due to coronavirus, households around the UK are turning to their smart products to stay entertained.

Whether you're looking to test your general knowledge with a quiz or meditate with a soothing soundtrack, Google Assistant can come to the rescue. Below, we've rounded up some of Google Assistant's best boredom-busting tricks.

We also have the details on smart speakers that have recently returned from the Which? test lab. The cheapest costs just £30 - even at that price point, you still have instant access to thousands of voice commands.

8 useful ways to take advantage of Google Assistant

1. Mindfulness and mental health

  • Quarantine might have you stuck in a house that's far busier than usual. But thankfully, you can escape the noise with some calming sounds courtesy of your Google Assistant speaker.

You can play relaxing audio through your speaker without having to rely on a third-party app. In other words, you don't need to install anything to get started. Try saying “Help me relax” for a peaceful sound effect, such as a crackling fire or a stream of water.

Alternatively, you might want to try a popular third-party app to soothe your mind. Headspace is a good choice - it's a guided meditation tool available for Android and iOS smartphones. Once installed on your mobile, it can pair with your smart speaker for hands-free use.

To use the Headspace app on your Google Assistant speaker, simply say “Talk to Headspace” or “Tell Headspace to start my daily meditation”. If you're winding down in the evening, try “Tell Headspace I'm ready to sleep”.

2. Quizzes and games

Tell your Google Assistant to “play Lucky Trivia” and you'll be a contestant on your very own quiz show. You can either try it solo or go head-to-head with another person in the house. The questions chucked your way cover a variety of topics, including history, animals, films and politics.

We've had some fun playing Movie Quiz, too. This will put your film knowledge to the test, asking you to shout out the title of a film based on a 10-second audio clip. Just say “Talk to Movie Quiz” to get started.

You can battle locally against people in the house, or try playing against a random opponent from another part of the world. When the game starts up, you can pick a specific decade or pick Expert and have a mix.

If you're not in the mood for a game, Google Assistant can offer up some entertainment in other ways. Try saying “Sing me a song”, “Tell me a riddle” or “Tell me something interesting”.

  • Lucky Trivia -a fast-paced trivia challenge for up to five people
  • Movie Quiz - identify the film from the audio clip
  • Fun Tricks - have Google Assistant tell jokes, riddles and sing songs

3. Keeping fit with Google Assistant

If you download the Google Fit smartphone app, you can access your fitness data through your Google Assistant speaker using voice commands. Google Fit is used to track your weight and count calories.

Your speaker can sync with the Google Fit smartphone app to report on how many steps you've taken that day - useful if you want to see how much ground you covered on your daily walk.

Google Assistant can be invaluable if you're trying to stay in shape during quarantine. There are lots of food-related queries that Assistant can deal with. For example, you can try asking “How many calories are there in coffee?” or “how much sugar is in chicken meat?”

Want to track your runs with a reliable fitness tracker? See our full range of Best Buy fitness trackers.

4. Catch up with a podcast

Tuning into the latest episode of your favourite podcast will no doubt help pass the hours. With a Google Assistant smart speaker, you'll be up and running with a single voice command. For example, try saying “Play the latest Which? Money Podcast” to Google Assistant.

If you've caught up with your usual shows and want to try something new, just say “find me a podcast about cooking” or “recommend a sports podcast.”

Of course, you don't need to reach for your smartphone if you need to pause the action. Just say “pause” or “stop” to your smart speaker. You'll also be able to change the volume with a voice command.

5. Interact with your other smart devices

Google's brainy AI helper can chat with other internet-enabled devices, such as smart TVs, streaming sticks, smart lights, thermostats and smart plugs. The voice commands you'll need will vary depending on which products you own.

Smart TV - “Play [show]” / “Play [channel] on TV” / “Search for [x] films”

Smart lights - “Turn on [light name]” / “Set [light name] to 50%” / “Turn [light name] green”

Smart thermostats - “Make it warmer” / “Lower the temp” / “Raise temp 2 degrees”

Smart plugs - “Turn on or off the [plug name]”

Streamline your everyday routines and tasks with our guide on how to set up a smart home.

6. Keep the kids entertained

Google Assistant supports a great mix of educational apps for kids and fun games to pass the time. We recommend exploring Google's Education apps page if you're looking for an overview of what's on offer.

Classic Stories is a good pick if you're looking for a child-friendly app for bedtime. Simply say “Tell me a fairytale story” to Google Assistant and you can listen to a selection of short stories that include Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella.

If your little one is fascinated with animals, try the Animal Trivia game. Your Google Assistant speaker will teach you some fun facts about animals around the world.

7. Try a new recipe in the kitchen

Sit your Google Assistant speaker in your kitchen and you can use it to guide you through a new recipe. From your smartphone, use the Google Assistant app to run a voice search. Say “find me a cookies recipe”.

When you're presented with a list of results, you'll see each recipe has a 'Send to Google Home' button. Tapping this will load up the recipe on your smart speaker.

With all your ingredients ready to go, you can say “start recipe” to your Google Assistant speaker and work through the steps. Voice commands you might find useful include “what's the next step?”, “how much butter do I need?” and “set a timer for 10 minutes”.

Smart displays can make for great cooking companions. See our smart display reviews for more details.

8. Stay connected with free UK calls

Support for hands-free calling on Google Assistant means you can stay in touch with friends and family without having to pick up your smartphone every time. But note you can only call UK phone numbers.

To make a call, simply say “call [contact name]” or “call [phone number]”. You can also ask “what is the nearest [business]” and then follow up with “call them”.

Google Assistant speakers in the Which? test lab

If you're shopping for a smart speaker but don't want to spend big, take a look at three of the latest Google Assistant devices to pass through our test lab. Make sure you click through for our full reviews.

JBL Link Portable (£130)

This tube-shaped Bluetooth speaker from JBL is powered by Google Assistant, so you can use it to manage your schedule and keep you entertained at home. Built-in controls let you adjust the volume with ease, or you can just use voice commands if you don't want to get up off the sofa.

JBL's Bluetooth speaker is also fully waterproof with an iPX7 rating - that means it can be submerged in one metre of water for around 30 minutes.

JBL Link Music (£90)

The JBL Link Music is the Link Portable's smaller and cheaper sibling. Multi-room support means that you can connect this Bluetooth device to any Chromecast-compatible speaker for a surround sound experience.

Like the Link Portable, the Link Music has onboard controls for adjusting the volume. A long press of the multifunction button will activate Google Assistant.

Google Nest Mini (£30)

This sub-£50 smart speaker can control your other internet-enabled devices and is fully compatible with iOS and Android. It's just 4cm high and might appeal if you want a speaker that will neatly tuck into a corner or onto a shelf.