Meet the Italian grandmother who went viral with her new Google Home

'Ay Googoo' video viewed 2.1 million times

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist
Ben Actis

In a screenshot of the now viral YouTube video 85-year-old Maria Actis, of Flagler Beach, looking amazed after her Christmas present, a Google Home mini, told her the weather. (Image: Ben Actis)

FLAGLER BEACH, Fla. - Maria Actis can FaceTime with her grandchildren and use Facebook with no problem, but the 85-year-old Flagler Beach resident was a little scared when her grandson presented her with a round small speaker on Christmas and told her to say, "Hello, Google."

The results of her first interaction with her present, a Google Home Mini device, unexpectedly went viral.

"Ay Googoo," Actis coos, tapping the small doughnut-shaped smart device at the beginning of the 2-minute video.

“I’m glad to meet you,” Actis says.

When the Google Home Mini answers with the Flagler Beach forecast for the day after Christmas Actis stands up.

“It’s a mystery, Oh, my gosh,” she says.

After a few more tries, including one in which Google says the London weather in response to Actis' request that it play her favorite Italian song, she's still not getting the hang of it. Actis says she stayed up late with her family while her grandson and his girlfriend, who were visiting from California, showed her how to become a Google Home pro.

Actis's grandson, Ben Actis, posted the video to YouTube, writing, "My 85 year old Italian grandmother learns to use Google home," and thinking that likely no one would watch it. More than 2.4 million views and thousands of comments later, the octogenarian grandmother has become an internet sensation.

"My friend from Boston called. 'Hey, mama, look here. You're on the TV,'" Maria Actis said.

After that, the calls kept coming -- from Italy, Michigan and all over -- as the video continued to gain attention.

Maria Actis immigrated to the U.S. from Italy more than 50 years ago, when she was a young mother and wife. She taught herself English, working at the front office of the auto repair shop she and her husband opened in Michigan, but she still has a strong Italian accent and she knows it.

When the video first went up, Actis was afraid people would make fun of her accent and call her "old and batty," she says, but instead, the YouTube video received hundreds of what she describes as "beautiful, beautiful notes."

"Can I be related to her please?" one user asks. "She is adorable," another writes.

Actis is vivacious when telling stories about her favorite pastimes, which once included skiing and traveling. Actis and her husband of 67 years moved from Michigan to Flagler Beach after retirement, because the weather is so nice here, and she learned to play tennis.

Her favorite show is "The Bold and the Beautiful," which she used to watch with her mother back in Italy before she died. The CBS soap opera runs two years behind in her home country, Actis says, she would keep her mother updated on all the stories.

Asked who her favorite character on the soap is, Actis exclaims, "I like everybody!"

By January, when Actis spoke to News 6 for this story, she said her Google Home Mini now knows her name and can play all of her favorite music. In other words, she's a pro.

Now Actis -- who says sleeping is like losing time -- likes to stay up at night talking to the Google Home, "because he answers me."

Her Google Home Mini sings opera with Actis and it functions as an alarm clock sometimes.

The mother of four and grandmother of six is happy that her funny moment surrounded by family on Christmas Day could bring a smile to people's faces.

"Because of the problems we have today, in today's world, at least I make somebody happy," Maria Actis says. "I never expected that."

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