In June, it was found that the Nest Hub and the Nest Hub Max would have a built-in keyboard for browsing the web by hand as opposed to doing so by voice. These devices also gained several new browser tools to make quickly navigating around the web much more accessible. Paired with the recently discovered full-fledged application launcher, these smart displays are beginning to come into their own as more useful tools in the home.
Now, 9to5Google has encountered an interesting feature that may or may not have been meant to release yet. In fact, it may just be a side effect of Google Assistant tying into the built-in browser. On Android, the ‘read this page’ option appeared last year and allowed you to do exactly that, so I think this feature is naturally extending to smart displays as a result.
A new text-to-speech icon (a person with audio waves coming from their mouth) is now featured on the top bar of Nest Hub Max devices – just next to the button that allows you to adjust the text size for the web page that you’re viewing. When selected, the player you see below becomes visible, complete with a scrubber, play, and pause buttons, a playback speed selector, and even the ability to skip forward 30 seconds, and backward 10 seconds. It’s actually reminiscent of that which is found on Google Podcasts, except here, the skip forward and backward buttons can’t be modified to display different time options.
The text-to-speech feature will highlight some text on the page and begin reading it out loud in Google Assistant’s voice. It works well overall, but it’s clearly still in development, as evidenced by the crashes that 9to5Google experienced after extensive testing. Not only that, but apparently, it continued to read an article even when the web browser was closed – weird.
In addition to this great feature, the browser on Nest Hub Max can now also open web pages by voice – just like you’ve been able to do on phones and Chromebooks. By saying ‘Hey Google, visit Chromeunboxed.com’, for example, your display will navigate you to us hands-free! It should be noted that these updates are only currently appearing on Hub Max devices, and not on standard Nest Hubs – not even first-gen Hubs running Fuchsia. Check your display settings for version 1.54 or 1.56 to see if you can start tapping into these extra tools!