This year’s Google I/O just got underway and just like most of Google’s other services get an update, so does the Google Assistant.
As per Google, the voice-assistant is now available on as many as 500 million devices currently and works with as many as 5,000 connected home devices. The company also states in a blog post that their goal is to have it available in more than 30 languages and 80 countries by the end of the year.”
Google’s vision for what it calls the next phase of the Google Assistant is primarily threefold – to make the assistant naturally conversational, more visual and helpful instead of being counter-productive. Here’s a breakdown of all the interesting additions to the Google Assistance.
Perhaps one of the biggest “OMG” additions to the Google Assistant is what’s called Google Duplex. Google Duplex, an AI system designed to accomplish real-world tasks over the phone, will now be tested on the digital assistant to perform a number of tasks on the user’s behalf without having to move an inch.
The Google Assistant can now be used to carry out complex tasks such as helping you make restaurant reservations, schedule hair salon appointments and book holiday trips. The assistant will check for an online booking process to make any of these requests and if it fails to find one, it will place a phone call on your behalf and get the booking done. Once the reservation or appointment is booked, the Assistant will add a calendar reminder for the appointment and allow the user to cancel if needed.
Google states that with Duplex, the Assistant can understand complex sentences, fast speech and long remarks, so it can respond naturally in a phone conversation. Even though the calls will sound natural, the Assistant will be clear about the intent of the call so businesses understand the context.
Interface redesign and Smart Displays
Google is planning a redesign of the iOS and Android interface of the Google Assistant. Expected to happen later this year, the redesigned version will give users a snapshot of the day, suggestions based on the time of day, location and interactions and also provide a summary of tasks and list items. The assistant will now also integrate popular notes and lists services including Google Keep, Any.do, Todoist etc.
Google also announced a new category of devices it calls, Smart Displays. These are devices built for the home that lets you quickly glance at responses provided by the Google Assistant. You can access the Assistant hands-free by voice, but you can also tap and swipe the screen when that’s easier.
Food Delivery straight
Google is introducing a new food pick-up and delivery experience, built right into to the Assistant. This service is not restricted to just a chat-style interface and you can also shout out what you want to eat to the Google Assistant and it will take care of it. The service is, however, restricted to the limited number of global outlets Google has partnered with so far.
Google Maps integration
Though this feature counts as more an update to Google Maps rather an update to the assistant itself, Google has now integrated the AI assistant into Google Maps. What this lets users do is send text messages, play music and podcasts and get information without having to leave the navigation screen and getting one’s eyes off the wheel.
6 New Voices
Adding a new voice to the assistant was a task that would require hundreds of hours worth of work in a recording studio but leveraging the advancements in AI, Google has gone ahead an developed six new voices for the Google Assistant. Google has also focussed on making the voices natural-sounding with all the nuances of a regular conversation such as the pauses, tone etc.
Google has also roped in John Legend and recorded his voice for certain tasks meant for the Google Assistant. Now, you won’t be able to hear Legend speak right away but his voice will be added later this year.
Focusing on making the question-answer process less robotic, users will now be able to have a natural back-and-forth conversation with Google Assistant without having to repeat the trigger phrase, “Hey Google”. The Assistant will now also be able to differentiate when you are talking to someone else and not the assistant. The ‘continued conversation’ feature will be available in a few weeks.
Another important update to the assistant is the ability to address multiple requests and actions said in a single sentence. Now, we did get a tiny hint of this feature being a possiblity when Google announced the launch of the JBL Link Bar recently.
Custom and scheduled Routines
Routines are a feature that Google introduced last year enabling multiple things to be done with a single command. So far, users had a choice of setting up to six routines at a time. Google has done away with that and is rolling out Custom Routines, which allow users to create one’s own Routine with any of the Google Assistant’s actions.