A new feature being tested internally at Google may remove the need to say “Hey Google” before completing commands in the Ness Hub smart display, Android central Report. Instead, the feature is named “Blue Steel”, which can allow the device to feel your presence, and listen to commands continuously without the need to listen to a wake-up word.
The video posted on YouTube by Jan Boromuse showcases the functionality, Android central Notes leaked features like Nest Hub’s new Dark Mode prior to the official announcement. In the video, Boromeusz can be seen asking for a variety of information for everyone, without pronouncing the words “Hey Google”. Their Nest Hub Max Smart Display is reportedly running internal firmware leaked for testing within Google, and it’s unclear whether the company has any plans to release the functionality publicly.
The speculation is that Nest Hub Max uses its existing ultrasound sensing to listen to a person’s presence and emotion. At the moment, the smart display only uses this to adjust the information it displays. However, in the future, this same technique may allow it to be heard outside for voice commands when it knows you are nearby. Ars Technica Speculates that it may also use its camera’s face match feature to get a better view of the speaker. Boromeusz shows the option to turn Blue Steel on and off in the Smart Display Settings menu.
If released to the public, Blue Steel could raise privacy concerns. A key element of current smart speakers and displays is to pay attention to what you are saying only after hearing the word wake. Relying on proximity detection increases the risk of listening to devices they don’t consider at the expense of your privacy.
That said, “Blue Steel” could make for a useful Optional Convenience for some. Saying “Hey Google” or “OK Google” repeatedly before every voice command hurts, and it potentially gives you access to the information you need very quickly.