News: 8 New Features Coming to Google Assistant for Android & iPhone

8 New Features Coming to Google Assistant for Android & iPhone

According to Google at their 2018 I/O conference, Google Assistant is now available on over 500 million devices. Now that the assistant is available on iPhones as well, Google has to give iOS users a reason to switch to its assistant over the built-in Siri. Today, Google has eight more reasons for users to do so.

Google claims the concurrent theme running through all of these new features is about saving user's time. While that's definitely true, you'll also find each adds a deeper level of flow and usability to the assistant. These enhancements make communicating with Google Assistant much more natural, closer to if you were talking to a real person. After all, that seems to be the goal for any digital assistant.

1: Google Duplex — Assistant Will Call People for You

Undoubtedly, the most impressive new feature coming to Google Assistant is Google Duplex, which allows Google Assistant to make phone calls on behalf of the user. Google Assistant makes its voice sound natural and as conversational as possible so that person being called won't have to adjust to talk to a "robot."

Google showed off two examples of Duplex in action, one making a hair appointment, the other placing a dinner reservation. In both scenarios, Google Assistant sounded perfectly human, with the real caller on the other end none the wiser. The assistant can react to stutters, breaks in conversation, callers talking over each other, and more to eventually get the job done.

Image by Google Developers/YouTube

It's a bit of a dive into the uncanny valley, to say the least. The assistant even includes its own human-like conversation tendencies — such as saying "um" while thinking about the next word or sentence, to keep the human caller unsuspicious.

Google says this feature will be rolling out as an experiment in coming weeks, hopefully no later than May 25, and we're definitely excited to try it out on every business who doesn't have web chat or online reservations.

2: Six New Voices (One Being John Legend)

For those who want some variety in the way their digital assistant sounds, Google has your back. The company unveiled six news voices that will be released, five of them on May 8, all with enhanced, realistic communication. Google put an emphasis on this realism, and how it's using machine learning and WaveNet to make its voices sound as natural as possible.

In addition to the five new voices that become available on May 8, Google partnered with John Legend to create the sixth upcoming voice for Google Assistant. While Legend's voice will be limited compared to the other choices, using machine learning, users will be able to get some Google Assistant feedback in the famed singers' voice. John Legend's voice will release later this year.

Image by Google Developers/YouTube

3: Continued Conversation — Keeps Your Inquiries Flowing

Having to repeatedly say "Hey Google" or "OK Google" can get old fast, especially if you have a lot of questions to get through. Google knows this, which is why it's introducing "Continued Conversation," a retooling of the way you interact with Google Assistant.

With Continued Conversation, you only need to say "Hey, Google" once. After that, you can continue to ask away or chat, and Google Assistant will listen to you and respond accordingly.

Image by Google Developers/YouTube

4: Multiple Actions — Answers More Complicated Questions

In addition to Continued Conversation, users can now string together more complicated, two-part questions with "Multilple Actions." Currently, Google Assistant wouldn't know what to do with the question "Who was the governor of California when Kevin Durant was drafted and what team drafted him?" However, with the new updates, your assistant will be able to follow these more complicated questions use coordination reduction and answer them accordingly.

5: Pretty Please — Helps Kids Be Polite to Their Technology

With the abundance of smart assistants for our phones, smart speakers, and even our appliances, some are concerned that children using this technology are missing out on important in manners — demanding answers from their digital assistants with no expectation of thanks.

Google is stepping in to nip that problem in the bud — "Pretty Please" rewards children who ask their Google Assistant for things politely with affirmation for their fantastic manners. "Please tell me a story" is returned with "Thank you for asking so politely" or "Thanks for saying 'please.'"

It's an interesting strategy and, if nothing else, might raise some of the most polite children in history.

6: Google Maps Integration

There are times you don't want your smart assistant taking up your entire display, such as when you're driving and want to keep an eye on your GPS location. Google is aiming to solve that problem by better integrating Google Assistant with Google Maps. Now, Google Assistant takes up a tiny portion of the window while keeping the directions in plain view. This feature is coming to Google Maps this summer.

Image by Google Developers/YouTube

7: Revamped UI

The Google Assistant team has also worked on making it easier to control the functions you ask Google Assistant to work with. For example, asking Google Assistant to turn down the temperature in the house brings up a full-screen thermostat, which allows you to tinker with the controls without leaving the Google Assistant screen. Google has even integrated other apps, like Starbucks, Domino's, Panera, 7-Eleven, and more, so you can ask the assistant to order you your usual from the closest establishment near you.

Image by Google Developers/YouTube

In addition, Google Assistant now contains a Google Now-like view. Just swipe up from the bottom of the Google Assitant window to access a string of useful information, such as driving directions, weather, incoming packages, and more.

Image by Google Developers/YouTube

Google says this feature is coming to Android this summer and to iOS in the fall.

8: Integration with Smart Displays

Google is partnering with smart display makers such as JBL, Lenovo, and LG to bring customers excellent experiences with Google Assistant. The company showed off how users can utilize Google Assistant on smart display to request a TV show, view photos, and even pull up animated recipes to cook alongside. This seems like an exciting update for anyone with a smart display — and possibly a compelling reason to pick one up.

What new Google Assistant feature you looking forward to most? Let us know in the comments below!

Cover image by Google Developers/YouTube, GIFs by Jake Peterson/Gadget Hacks

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