Google has disabled the Google Home Mini’s top touch functionality, which gives users the power to interact with Google Assistant. The basis for the elimination of top touch is chronicled in a post published Tuesday by Android Police reviewer Artem Russakovskii. After a few days, he found that the Google Home Mini he’d been given was carrying out thousands of uninitiated recordings — when the top of the device had not been touched and he hadn’t said “Hey Google.”
The smart speaker made its public debut a week ago at Google’s biggest hardware event of the year and will go on sale October 18 for $49. Virtually every device at the October 4 event lauded Google Assistant as a selling point.
Russakovskii first began to notice something was wrong after lights atop the device started blinking and Google Assistant continuously repeated that it did not understand, even though nothing had been said. Shortly after the issue was brought to Google’s attention on October 7, the company created a support page, rolled out a software update, and removed all correspondence with the device that had been initiated with the top touch feature between October 4 and October 7. The limited group of people given the device — media, Google employees, and other attendees of the hardware event — will no longer see any interactions initiated with the touch function in My Activity, a place Google users can review, hear, or delete Google Assistant interactions.
Google appeared to take what happened seriously, as the unit was picked up for examination, assessed, and a software update issued within the span of roughly 24 hours, Russakovskii said.
“We take user privacy and product quality concerns very seriously,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement today. “Although we only received a few reports of this issue, we want people to have complete peace of mind while using the Google Home Mini. We have made the decision to permanently remove all top touch functionality on the Google Home Mini. As before, the best way to control and activate the Google Home Mini is through voice, by saying ‘Ok Google’ or ‘Hey Google,’ which is already how most people engage with our Google Home products.”
Google’s Home Mini delivers better sound quality than Amazon’s Echo Dot, but this misstep comes at a critical time. The Home Mini arrives on October 19 and will be followed by several competitors’ products with their own AI assistants. Microsoft and Apple will put their first smart speakers on store shelves in the weeks ahead with the release of the Harman Kardon Invoke and HomePod. Amazon, meanwhile, unveiled the second generation Echo and nearly a half-dozen other products late last month.