(Pocket-lint) - Google's next feature could spell the end for wake words like "OK Google". The company is reportedly testing a smart display feature that activates Google Assistant based on proximity, rather than wake words.
As spotted by Android Central, leaker Jan Boromeusz shared a YouTube video demonstrating the feature on a Nest Hub Max. (It appears to be part of an internal firmware build that's not yet available.) As you can see from the video, Boromeusz first uses Google Assistant without uttering a wake word. The assistant's UI pops up when they move closer and fades when they remain still.
Google hasn't announced if or when it plans to launch the feature, which is codenamed Blue Steel. It's also not yet known how Blue Steel works, including whether it will need to be enabled and require the use of a camera. Google could be trying to maximise the Nest Hub Max's ultrasound capabilities, which can detect how far away you are without using a camera, but that isn't confirmed yet.
Either way, this doesn't exactly kill the "OK Google" wake word, as not all of Google's smart device have ultrasound capabilities or even a camera, which means they likely won't get Blue Steel. So, you'll still need to use wake words to invoke Assistant on them. But this does indicate Google is possibly thinking about ways to get rid of always having to say "OK Google", and honestly, that opens the door to innovation in the smart speaker space.
We just hope Google is also thinking about privacy as it develops Blue Steel. We'll keep you posted as we learn more.