At CES 2020 in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Google announced a slew of new features for its voice-based digital assistant, making it “more helpful throughout your day when you’re at home, in the car or on your phone”. The first and more important feature being rolled out to Google Assistant is, undoubtedly the ability to schedule actions for the future. The other features include better management of household notes, a more natural voice for long-format reading and a couple of new privacy-related safeguards.
Called ‘Scheduled Actions’, the most notable new feature will enable users to ask the Assistant to switch on/off a compatible smart device at a time of their choosing. As an example of how the feature will work, Google says one will be able to turn off a compatible coffee-maker at a precise time everyday by saying: “Hey Google, run the coffee maker at 6 a.m”. The feature will be compatible with more than 20 new devices, including AC units, air purifiers, bathtubs, coffee makers, vacuums and more. Scheduled Actions will start rolling out later this year.
Next up is the ‘Household Notes’ feature that the company says will “ensure notes are seen in one central location by creating digital sticky notes with the Assistant on your Smart Display”. As part of its plans to help families better communicate and stay on the same page, anyone will be able to see these plans without needing to sign-in. There’s also a speed-dial feature that will allow users to quickly and easily make calls on their speakers and Smart Displays via voice commands for Google Assistant.
More Natural Voice for Long-Format Reading
Google also previewed a new experience that enables natural reading of long-form content. According to Google, the new technology is based on new voice datasets and, varies from traditional screen readers by creating more expressive and more natural sounding voices, making it easier on the human year when listened to for a longer period of time. The feature can be activated from Android devices by just saying: “Hey Google, read this page” while reading any article.
Having rolled out the ‘Interpreter Mode’ on Android and iOS last month, Google is now rolling out the feature for businesses at select locations, including hotels, airports, sports stadiums, organizations aiding humanitarian efforts and more. The company says it has tied-up with tech firms Volara and SONIFI for the purpose.
In addition to all the new privacy-related safeguards Google has incorporated into Assistant in recent months, the company at CES also announced the addition of two new voice actions for people to easily control their privacy, such as “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you”, which lets users delete any recordings via accidental activation. Users can also ask “Hey Google, are you saving my audio data?” to learn about their privacy controls and go directly into the settings screen to change their preferences, said the company.
Google Assistant is Coming to an IoT Device Near You
Google Assistant is already available on more than 1 billion devices, and Google says that plans are afoot to roll it out for a bunch of new smart displays, speakers, headphones and soundbars this year from a whole host of vendors, including Acer, Aftershokz, Anker Innovations, Belkin, Cleer, Harman Kardon, Konka, JBL, Lenovo, Philips, Seiki and LG.