One of the advantages Google's Nest Hub Max has over the regular Nest Hub is a built-in camera, to go along with its 10-inch touchscreen display. This can be used to detect and recognize when a person is using the device. Since the smaller Nest Hub does not have a camera, Google had to figure out a way to detect a user's presence, and it has found a solution—sound waves.
Google is adding ultrasonic proximity sensing to both the Nest Hub Max and Nest Hub. This new feature allows both smart devices to react and interact with users, without a camera.
This is not an entirely new concept. Google got its feet wet with ultrasonic sensing with the Nest Mini and its Nest Wi-Fi router satellites. The way it works on the Nest Hub Max and Nest Hub is similar—a high frequency sound beams through the speakers and are then listened to by the built-in microphones. This allows the Nest Hub Max and Nest Hub to audibly detect if someone is nearby, at a distance of up to around five feet away.
Armed with this detection scheme, the Nest Hub Max and Nest Hub can more intelligently interact with the user. For example, if someone gets close to the device, it can bring up the touch controls and show the weather cards. Likewise, as a person moves farther away, it can get rid of the touch controls and jack up the font for easier viewing.
On the smaller Nest Hub, there's way to personalize this experience to individual users, since it does not have a camera to detect different faces. Still, it can least tailor basic experiences to users, based on whether they arm within arm's reach or earshot.
Google told Android Police this feature is rolling out to Nest Hub Max and Nest Hub users today.