Back in June, the built-in browser found on Assistant Smart Display became more feature-rich. Another update to the Nest Hub browser will read articles aloud to you (TTS), just like on Android, while it’s now easier to open websites. 

The browser’s top bar features a new button in between the page name/URL and the icon for adjusting text size. If you’re viewing an article — homepages do not work — the button can be selected. This slides up a player complete with play/pause, 10-second rewind, 30-second jump, scrubber, and speed controls (.75x to 2x).

It works well, though over the course of navigating through a dozen pages I encountered a Smart Display crash. In one instance, Google was bizarrely reading an article that wasn’t on the screen. Meanwhile, after a few minutes of inactivity, the browser will close. 

This capability is exactly like the one found on phones. The player bar can shrink down, while the current passage being read is highlighted in real time. In March of 2020, Google rolled out a “read this page” command on Android with the ability to choose between four voices and translate text.

Meanwhile, on Android, you’ve long been able to tell Assistant to open webpages in Chrome, e.g. “Hey Google, open 9to5google.com.” As some have noticed, this voice command is now available on Smart Displays to replace the old circuitous route of having to first do a voice search on a topic to open Wikipedia and then use links on there to navigate to other sites, including google.com.

These two additions reflect how the hidden browser found on the first-gen Home Hub is now being actively developed. It would not be surprising if Google eventually announced and made this capability official. 

As of today, we’re only seeing this updated browser with the read/TTS capability on the Nest Hub Max running firmware version 1.54 or 1.56. It’s not appearing on the smaller Fuchsia or 2nd-gen Nest Hub, which could be a screen size consideration.

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