This story was originally published and last updated .
Google has officially introduced a
neat nagging new feature for its Assistant speakers and smart displays called Family Bell, starting to roll out today. If you're the kind of person who often forgets to eat or sleep on time, who procrastinates a lot, works for hours and forgets to stretch their legs, or otherwise misses the regular time cues of a normal day, you'll be able to rely on Assistant to remind you of all of them. Consider it a virtual parent or nanny living inside your speakers and always looking out for your best interest.
The feature originally popped up for our tipster Andy in their Assistant daily snapshot screen back in July and is mostly unchanged now that it's official. When they accepted to give it a try, they were redirected to a new setting screen, explaining that bells are custom announcements for families. You'll also be able to get to it by saying, "Manage Family Bell," once it has rolled out to you.
Google offers a few preset bells, which you can see in the GIF below on the left. These include special reminders for breakfast, launch, snack, dinner, sleep, nap, reading, recess, math, studying, yoga, classes, fresh air, and for some reason, making music. If none of these work for you, you can also type your own announcement.
Then you set a time, choose the days of the week this bell should be active on, and pick the speaker it'll play on, so you can have different reminders for different locations at the same time. It doesn't seem like you can pick a group of speakers though. When you're done, save it, and all your custom bells will show up in a list, with a simple toggle to quickly enable or disable them.
Then, when the day and time are right, a notification will pop up on your phone and the custom announcement will play on your chosen speaker or display. We haven't tested it, but this should work on Google Homes, Nest Homes, Nest Hubs, and, if we're lucky, third-party speakers and displays too.
It's clear that staying at home for months has influenced Google's development team and spurred this idea, and I can see a lot of benefits to it. Some people don't have any trouble organizing their time, but others struggle with that and often find themselves still sitting at their desk at... looks at the clock... 6:30 pm, having skipped lunch, and still working. For those, a loud reminder to eat or take a break can come in handy. You could also use this to set up reminders to take your pills, do the laundry, take out the garbage, and other semi-routine tasks.
Family Bell is starting to roll out today in English in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and India. If you don't have it yet or live in another country and want to emulate it, you can create a custom routine and ask Assistant to repeat something after you as the action. You could also set reminders on Assistant, but those don't spell out the text until asked. And if you want to nag your whole family, don't forget that you can also broadcast a message across the entire house or, most recently, to a specific speaker.
Family Bell is now official. The post has been updated accordingly.
- Andy Kennedy