Connected Testing Pixel with unusual questions

Thanks to the threat of an exploding battery, I was forced to move to the new Google Pixel XL phone.

Remember the Samsung Galaxy Note 7? It was a beautiful piece of technology. But, like many other smartphones, the Note 7 used a lithium ion.

The liquid in a lithium ion battery can be flammable, so if the thin plastic shield separating the negative and positive sides breaks, boom.

It’s more like a fizzle with fire and smoke, but you get the picture.

Truth be told, I only had a Note because I have gigantic fingers. I saw my colleague using an earlier version of the Note, and I was immediately hooked.

So, when I moved to the Pixel, I was concerned about the size of the screen.

Little did I know how captivated I would become with Pixel’s functionality.

If you’ve heard anything about Pixel, it’s probably related to the camera. Yes, the pictures are amazing. Crisp. Clear.

But the real test came from with kids.

Despite our best efforts, every new electronic device that enters our house eventually ends up in their hands.

So, it wasn’t long before my Pixel became fodder for adolescent exploration.

We have iPads, and they enjoy taunting Siri, Apple’s “intelligent” assistant that responds to voice commands. My kids try to one-up each other by throwing out clever, yet increasingly crude commands.

“Hey Siri, do you have a boyfriend?“

“Hey Siri, what color is poop?”

I’m so proud, and clearly an excellent parent.

When I introduced them to the new Google Assistant, they were pretty excited. If you’re a regular reader of this column, you might recall my reflection on Google’s new AI assistant, a function of its new Allo app.

Google’s AI functions are very similar to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

Google’s AI is activated by saying “OK Google” followed by some command. Some of the features are quite useful when you’re busy doing other things with your hands.

I’m not making a reference to driving here. Of course, your attention should always be on the road and not on your phone. Nonetheless, just like Siri, it is possible to make a call or send a text without having to actually look at your device.

In a short time with the new Pixel, I’ve become quite good at simple albeit useful commands:

“OK Google ...

... how far away is Philadelphia from my current location?”

... will it be sunny tomorrow in Youngstown, Ohio?”

Of course, these commands are of little interest to my kids.

Sure, they use it for homework help, but they prefer to play.

Their commands resemble a lottery. They try new combinations until they find a winner:

“OK Google ...

... what am I?”

... beatbox.”

... who let the dogs out?”

And then they hit the jackpot with:

“OK Google, what does the fox say?”

Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @adamearn.

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