Smart device companies: Please document your voice commands

This started a while back with my Midea U air conditioner that I realized I didn’t know how to tell Google Assistant to get it to do various things. Oh, I can turn it on or off no problem, I can set the temperature, but how do I turn it to fan mode? How do I ask it to crank the fan up while it’s on AC? Is it able to tell me the temperature of the room like the app does? Can I get a status update? I don’t know. Still don’t after combing their website.

But Midea is not alone. Not remotely. Don’t think I’m singling them out. This started, as many of my Smart Assistant related things do, at 2am on a Saturday night attempting to figure out how to ask a Roborocks S7 to quietly go and mop a kitchen, and I stress quietly vacuum a dining room (tl;dr old roommate’s dog had come for a visit, ran kids ragged, house destroyed, insomnia). After pouring through the manuals and discovering Google had no idea what “mop the kitchen” meant (sorry, that device hasn’t been set up yet) I was forced to resort to the app.

I went on websites of some of the other smart things I own. Mostly decent instructions on pairing followed by no indication of what you could do or say. Assistant integration is treated as just an afterthought after they’ve used it to sell to you.

I mean, I get maybe not printing it up as commands are subject to change as the programmers go and do their thing, but directing to a website with a page devoted to what you can do would be useful.

I’ve got smart lights that have a really cool rainbow feature and… no idea how to trigger it outside of the app. I’ve got smart plugs I can in-app set to come on at a certain time but no clue whether I can say “hey Google, turn on my living room light at 5pm tonight” (I can’t, but it’s something I can schedule in app or make a routine for.)

I’ve got a smart switch that has a plug 1 and 2 that I can turn both off or one or the other on in app. In Assistant it’s only one device. I have another smart switch that looks exactly the same and it registers as two devices. What are the commands here to turn one thing or both things off? No clue.

It would take most manufacturers about 10 minutes to document the various commands on a page that says “things you can say” and update it occasionally.

Don’t get me started on when it’s different phrasing and feature sets between Alexa and Google Home.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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