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Google Ups the Ante with Updates to Google Assistant

March 5, 2018

Virtual assistants, like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa have become essential to many device owners over the years, providing quick access to several helpful features and synchronizing technology throughout home, office, and automobile. Google’s VA, Google Assistant, has aimed to increase its value with the addition of several useful features this year.

Last year saw many updates to Google Assistant as well, with availability increasing from mobile devices to television sets, speakers, Android Auto, and car technology. On February 23, Nick Fox, Vice President of Google’s Product department, published an article in the company’s blog advising internet users of the new additions to Google Assistant and how they would affect the application going forward. Some of these changes include, VA integration, language functionality, and new routines.

Integrating Assistant onto Devices

Google announced in October of last year that they would be integrating Google Assistant into android phones in a more advanced way, and it looks like this year the integration will become a reality. The tech giant announced this month that Sony, LG, and Xiaomi users will be the first to notice the more deeply integrated functionality, which will begin with changes to the camera. Rather than simply launching the camera via voice command, this Google Assistant update will allow your virtual assistant to open individual settings and features of the camera.

The company hopes to integrate Google Assistant into several other areas as well. One such focus will be on partner/device relations in terms of allowing users to check provider specific information via voice. Checking bill amounts, cycle end dates, and other such information will be as easy as telling Google Assistant what you want to know and listening for an answer. Providers already partnering with Google on these efforts include Sprint, Telus, Koodo and Vodafone.

Language Preferences

In the past Google has offered eight different language possibilities to users and is now promising to offer thirty by the end of this year. This will increase the number of mobile devices globally which can benefit from use of GA, increasing from the 400-million it already serves. Google hopes that the changes will mean reaching more than 95% of devices world-wide.

It isn’t just the number of languages which Google is updating in this latest VA overhaul, they are also focusing on the ability to set multiple preferences when it comes to language. For example, a family who speaks Mandarin Chinese at home, but English at work, can set their Google Assistant settings to reflect these changes as they move from one location to the next.

This decreases limitations which the virtual assistant posed in the past, and creates the ability for automated changes, rather than manual ones. This preference update is targeted toward multilingual families, and will begin with French, English and German, branching out as the year progresses to include more, including Dutch, Indonesian, Hindi, Danish, Swedish, Thai, and Norwegian.

New Routines and Location-based Reminders

Google Assistant users will see the Routines function, announced last year, become available over the coming months. This feature is designed to streamline use of the virtual assistant and provide more convenience to users. Routines will link your arrival home with the activation of lights or music coming on in your house when you say, “Hey Google, I’m home.” Other possible tasks carried out by this command could include a text being sent to your spouse to let them know you’re home for the evening, or activating the heat/cooling system in your home.

Along with the inclusion of routines, Google Assistant is focusing on reminders which are linked to location. For example, if you have an assignment due tomorrow, a grocery list you need to recall, or an appointment with the dentist, your virtual assistant will be able to tell you through your phone, speaker system, and other technology in your home or car.

While these are the latest updates to Google Assistant as announced by the tech giant, they’re sure not to be the last. Over the past year and a half, virtual assistants have been evolving in leaps and bounds, and Google has been following these updates with many of their own, catching up and even surpassing some other branded VA’s on the market.

During last year’s announcement, Google made it clear that some other functions, users can expect to see include the ability to make easy transactions through VA by commanding to speak to “Panera”, “1-800-Flowers”, and more to purchase services or products more easily. The virtual assistant will also be able to broadcast around the home with a single command. “OK Google, broadcast”, will let you announce through upstairs devices while downstairs that it’s time to leave for school, or that lunch is being served.

Google Lens, Pixelbook, and Pixelbook Pen are also receiving a few tweaks and updates as Pixel phones become more popular. By tapping the Google Lens icon in photos, users will be able to search for music, movies, landmarks, and more with GA offering commentary on what turns up. Pixelbook Pen will help by interacting with these images or text, allowing you to circle what you want to know more about so that Google Assistant can find information for you. Optimization will also be linked to Pixel Buds, to listen to your notifications and get your reminders without the need for eye contact with your device.

These changes for Google could mean more interactive updates by other virtual assistants. The competition for tech domination is steep, with no sign of slowing in the near future.