Hands-On With The Google Assistant-Enabled Nest Cam IQ

September 20, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

Nest Labs on Wednesday announced a complete home security system in the form of Nest Secure, debuting several new products compatible with the service like the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, as well as announcing that the previously released Nest Cam IQ will receive support for the Google Assistant this winter. No firm release date has yet been given, with the Alphabet-owned consumer electronics manufacturer only saying that the feature will be distributed to the existing units via a conventional over-the-air update, though Nest already detailed some of the capabilities of its new and improved Internet of Things gadget during its Wednesday hardware event.

By bringing the Google Assistant to the Nest Cam IQ, the company essentially turned its indoor security camera into a Google Home unit with a lens and some compromises, as suggested by its representatives earlier today. This comparison seems to hold up in practice; Google’s digital companion running on the security camera is just as knowledgeable and almost as versatile as that found inside the Google Home or a smartphone with Android Marshmallow and newer versions of the company’s operating system. You can say “OK Google” while in the vicinity of your Nest Cam IQ to activate the digital companion and have it accept a voice command just like you usually would, being able to tell the service to set an alarm, read you the upcoming fixtures of your favorite sports team, or remind you to purchase a birthday gift for your friend on Saturday. If you ever used the Google Assistant on the company’s smart speaker or your smartphone, you should already have a pretty good idea of what to expect here.

The Nest Cam IQ is equipped with a single speaker and a three-microphone array, with this particular setup making the device a relatively capable host for the Google Assistant. While there are some limitations in place when compared to the Google Home, the integration with Google’s AI companion is still relatively impressive considering this is a device that wasn’t initially designed to be used as a Google Assistant-enabled unit, or at least Nest gave no indication of that being the case. Still, with the Palo Alto, California-based original equipment manufacturer being acquired by Google in 2013 and placed under Alphabet two years later, the fact that it’s now integrating Google’s offerings into its own products isn’t particularly surprising, albeit it’s doing so in a somewhat slow manner. For example, you won’t be able to tell your camera to turn on or directly control the unit with the Google Assistant, though the device itself should already be relatively automated in this regard and you’ll still have the option of using its support for the AI service to control other compatible products.

Secondly, you won’t be able to have your camera play music, but again, you should be able to order it to trigger audio playback on a supported device. With the Nest Cam IQ having only a single speaker not meant for audio playback, this design choice is understandable and unlikely to be reverted in the future, and the same could apply to the company’s decision to not allow users direct voice control over the hardware of the indoor security camera. In overall, the functionality won’t turn your Nest Cam IQ into an actual Google Home but it will get it as close as possible given the hardware found inside the device.

The Google Assistant support is only coming to the Nest Cam IQ Indoor, the firm said, though it’s currently unclear whether the newly announced Nest Cam IQ Outdoor could also be ennobled with the same functionality at some point in the future. If such a thing was to happen, Google would first have to introduce a more robust voice identification mechanism which would be active at all times so as to avoid having people who may found themselves in your yard interact with the unit in any manner. Regardless and for the time being, the Google Assistant support seems like a valuable addition to the Nest Cam IQ that will make many owners of the device happy this holiday season. The functionality will presumably be rolled out in stages and all eligible devices will receive it by the end of the first quarter of 2018, though it remains to be seen whether some more recently produced units will ship with the feature out of the box.