A key feature of this year’s Nest Mini speakers and Nest Wifi points is their ability to use ultrasound to detect your presence and light up in response. Starting today, the Google Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max will be able to detect when you’re nearby in the same way, with a few extra benefits.
While the Nest Hub Max uses its front-facing security camera to identify the presence of certain people via Face Match and show information tailored to that person, the original, smaller Nest Hub (née Google Home Hub) doesn’t have a camera. Instead it relies solely upon Voice Match and its touchscreen to tailor the experience.
Meanwhile, Google’s latest speakers — the Nest Mini that succeeds the Home Mini, and the Nest Wifi point that has an integrated Assistant speaker — are both able to detect when you’re nearby with nothing more than the speaker and microphone. By playing an ultrasonic sound through the speaker and then listening for the sound to bounce back, the speakers can know if you’re within a few feet of them.
As spotted by a redditor, via Android Police, this same capability is rolling out to both the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max starting today, and bringing with it some extra features. Where speakers simply react to your presence by lighting up, the Nest Hub and Hub Max will show a different UI depending on if you’re nearby or farther away.
For example, there is now a second timer UI shown when you’re about 5 feet or more away from your smart display, which will animate back to a smaller UI as you walk closer.
Other parts of the smart display UI also respond to how near you are, like the weather view. One reader also points out that the Nest Hub can now also detect when you’re approaching and proactively pull up the media controls when using apps like Spotify.
Android Police also notes that the Nest Hub can also use this to proactively show notification cards when you approach, though we were not able to get this aspect to work in our testing. The usefulness of proactive notifications is limited on the smaller Nest Hub, though, without access to Face Match to know who’s approaching.
Google has specifically stated that the Nest Hub Max’s ability to know when you’re nearby does not use the camera, meaning if you choose to disable the camera, the ultrasonic sensing will still function. As the presence detection is ultrasound-based, disabling the microphone via the physical switch will prevent your smart display from sensing your presence.
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