How this Google Home app helped my father after his stroke

About a year ago my father had a stroke. After 70 years of work as a salesman, 6 days-a-week for 12 hours-a-day, this deficiency forced him into retirement. Hoping to get back to work, he received speech therapy but never fully recovered.

Now in retirement, his typical quiet demeanor at home has kept him from exercising his neural network to reroute his audio connections. He is not tech savvy, so my attempts to get him using games on Luminosity have been unsuccessful.  

This Thanksgiving, during my visit to my parents house, I decided to see how he would fair with a Google Home. So far it has been great! Even practicing the wake word “Hey, Google” was a challenge at first, but he is improving dramatically.

Excited, I went through all the games I could find. I quickly realized just how unintuitive and disorganized the App side of Google Home still is. Some apps worked, and some didn’t. Either an app was “Not Found” or “Not Responding” when I tried to activate it. Sometimes an app would unexpectedly quit mid use. Even more frustrating were the multiple steps needed to try the above search for a working app over and over again after hitting a dead end. For example:

Me: “Hey Google” (Google Lights up)

Me: “Talk to X Game” (Wait)

Google: “Sorry, I could not find X Game” (wait for light to go off)

….Start over with another game name”

Navigation through the voice-UI was frustrating as well, and for my Dad it was impossible. To work around the issue, I went through all the games I could find online, and wrote down the ones that worked from the ones that did not. Then, I wrote our an old-school paper cheat-sheet that listed each game and its commands.

“Hey Google, – Let’s play a game”

“Hey Google, – Play 1-2-3 game”


What made it more complicated was that some trigger words required the user to say “Play” while others required the words “Talk to”. There is no reasoning I could find as to why there was a differences. What I realized is that these nuances were terrible difficult to retain for my non-tech savvy Dad. So, listing them out distinctly, on paper, and placing the paper next to the Google Home Device, was the best way I could provide the info to him.

One thing my Dad has retained since coming to the US is his keen memory of the US Presidents. I imagine he studied american history proudly and tirelessly when he moved here and sought his citizenship. Unfortunately, the Presidents Quiz, which I found listed in Google Home’s marketplace, and one I was sure he would like, was one of the games that was “Not Responding”.

At first I was disappointed, but then realized this was the perfect opportunity to try and build a Home App! I set out to create a US Presidents Quiz on Google Home for my Dad. 🙂

There are many ways to build a Google Home app. The two I explored were DialogFlow ( – formerly and the “Actions” console ( Dialog Flow had a great UI that made it seems like it would be simple to set up an interaction, but the concept of Intents, Events, Entities, Training Phrases and Responses was complex. What fed into what, and where I was suppose to handle requests from users and deliver responses did not come easily.

Google Actions is amazingly simple and perfect for those looking to build a game or quiz. WhileDialogFlow has many samples ( and plenty of docs, I decided Actions made the most sense, and I would leave DioalogFlow for another project; by using Actions, I could spin up an entire game in a single night. Interested in creating your own? Just follow this extremly simpley one-pager: No code required!

The more labor intensive part of this project was listing out the hundreds of questions, correct answers, and purposefully wrong answers for multiple choice, I needed to seed the game.

You can check it our yourself, by saying:

“Hey Google, Talk to US Presidents Quiz”
Or by opening it in the directory here.


Here is a print out for commands if you have a similar situation.

Mountain Louging – Living Facebook

Almost a year ago I saw a post on Facebook of some guys having a blast louging down a mountain. No one knew where it came from on the thread, but I remember thinking, “Man – I gotta try that.” Most of the time the things I’ve see of Facebook stay things I’ve only seen on Facebook. Well no longer. In New Zealand we stumbled upon Skyline Park in Rotorua. When I saw they had luging I insisted to Jackie that we HAD to go.

When we got there they told us we could only buy packs of at least 5 luge rides with a zip line. We thought that was overdoing it, but without any smaller options we paid the $70pp and went inside.

Good thing we did too! After our first ride down we ran back to the top to do it again, and again, and again… I am usually not the type to go to an amusement park on a vacation while touring a country, but the Kiwis do it in such a unique and outdoorsy way that it is well worth it. The park had awesome Mountain Bike trails and the Zorb, which we didn’t get to try because of time. What a great way to enjoy the New Zealand outdoors and views!

Here is a video of one of the last trips down. By then I got more confident and really let it rip. I even got some air on a couple of the dips – you can hear me hooting when it happens 🙂

Some other non-luge clips:

Here is Jackie before we took our zip line down. I would have had video but since you end up laying back for the ride the whole shot was of the sky :-/


Getting ready to zipline
Getting ready to zipline

The more speedy way to come down after the zipline. We fell backwards with a quick bungee. It happened so fast I forgot to film it. :-/

A quick bungee down.
A quick bungee down.

One of our many rides back to the top on the Gondola for more fun rides.

Taking the Gondola back up for another fun ride
Taking the Gondola back up for another fun ride