I'm an American who lives in Japan. I can speak Japanese reasonably well, but I normally keep my Google Home speakers and Google Assistant app set to U.S. English for ease of use. Now I'm thinking of buying Google-compatible smart ceiling lights for my livingroom from a Japanese manufacturer. (In Japanese homes, most rooms have a universal attachment in the ceiling that accepts any style of ceiling light - the U.S. needs to learn that lesson!) But of course the example voice commands are all in Japanese - I'm sure they are assuming all their users have their smart speakers set to Japanese. I asked a light manufacturer about it, but they merely answered that their lights are only for use in Japan and therefore they have not tested them with English and cannot advise me.

So my question (thinking like a programmer) is: When a voice command is given to Google Home to control another device (e.g. "Dim the lights in the living room"), I know Google Assistant will first parse the sentence to determine which device(s), e.g. the room called "livingroom" and device type called "lights". But then, does it send the rest (in this case, the word "dim" in English) to the device as-is, or is there an underlying code that is not English or Japanese at all but part of a common command set for smart lights? I know that I might have to experiment to figure out what English syntax works with any given model (particularly fancier stuff like changing the color temperature or setting the brightness to a specific level), but I just want to know if it's possible.

This is actually the second IoT device I've bought in Japan, but the first was only a cheap plug (so the only commands are on and off) and all its communication was through Smart Life (almost certainly a server in China, and it supports multiple languages), so that's not a very good test.

  • please post a picture of the ceiling attachment if you can ..... just curious
    – jsotola
    Feb 12 '19 at 20:27
  • 1
    I don't feel like taking off one of my lights to take a personal photo, but here's someone else's photo series: city-cost.com/blogs/edthethe/GLdmN-living There are a few different styles (see the first image on this page: accessj.com/2013/02/moving-light-fixtures-for-japanese.html), but they work very similarly - plug in the power and twist the rest of the fixture into place. Many newer lights (like the one in that first link) have an adapter you put on first and then the light snaps onto the adapter, but in all cases it's a 30-second job with no tools. Feb 14 '19 at 7:18

The commands e.g. on/off, set brightness are all handled in the language the device is set to. They are then converted to a set of enum values that are passed to the backend for control as part of a JSON object. The Google Home Smart Device API is here for a list of available commands and what gets passed: https://developers.google.com/actions/smarthome/

As for device/room names they are matched against the language they are entered in. So if you name a room Living Room in English and then try to access it with the Japanese for Living Room "リビングルーム" I don't think that will work. Once a device is matched by name it is then converted to a unique id provided by hardware manufacturer.

  • Naming is not an issue - I name all my rooms and devices in English (and it's very true that "ribingu ruumu" would not sound like the same thing!). Thanks for the info about the API - that helps a lot. It seems likely that I can experiment with common English commands for lights (e.g. what works for a Philips Hue or something) and find ones that generate API requests that the light would understand. Feb 12 '19 at 8:32

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