Updated: May 11, 2018 9:35:58 am
At the I/O developer conference, one product that stood out was the Google Assistant, which is getting a lot of new features, including the ability to make voice calls in the future. The Google Assistant will also be integrated with Maps as well, and it will also become more ‘naturally conversational’. Google Assistant will be coming to smart displays by Lenovo, JBL and LG and these will start shipping in July 2018. Here’s everything we have learnt about the Google Assistant from the I/O conference.
Google Assistant and Duplex: When are those voice calls coming?
Keep in mind that when Google Assistant gets the ability to make voice calls on behalf of users it will be limited to just three tasks. Booking a restaurant, a hair salon appointment and checking closing/opening hours for a business. As Lilian Rincon, Director Product Management, explained, “If you ask Google Assistant to break-up with your wife, it won’t do that.”
When asked whether there will be a training period before Assistant can make the calls, Rincon explained the idea is to make the process as seamless as possible. “It is early implementation of this technology. It may ask one or two questions, the first time, but we want to keep it seamless.” So will people know they are speaking to a virtual Assistant? Well, Rincon clarified, the idea was not to fool the other person into thinking that Assistant is human.
“We are still deciding how to introduce this technology to the world. How it can be perceived. We wanted to be very transparent about Google having this capability and are still trying to figure out the best user experience. Duplex is about the platform and what the technology can do. How we productise it is something we will have to think about,” she added.
It should be noted that when Google Assistant makes the calls, it will use a different number to book the appointment and not the user’s number. According to Rincon, “The experiment will be rolling out in the next couple of weeks for these three use cases.” It will roll out in the US and will be enabled for regular users.
Google Assistant is now more ‘naturally conversational’
Google Assistant will also be more ‘naturally conversational’ with users, meaning one will not always have to rely on the ‘Ok Google’ or ‘Hey Google’ to continue a conversation. “It will actually listen and continue to answer questions without users always saying on the hotword,” explained Google’s Director of Product Management.
Google Assistant will also get the ability to answer two different queries at the same. For instance, if a user tells it to set an alarm for the morning, and another reminder to pick up milk from the grocery store in one sentence, the Assistant will be able to execute both tasks.
Google Assistant: New language support, new voices
Natural language support will be available in 30+ languages in 80 countries by the end of 2018. There will be six new voices as well, though these will come to the US market first. The celebrity voice included is from singer John Legend, though this is the first one for Google Assistant. Whether more celebrity voices are added to the Assistant is something we will have to wait and see.
Google Assistant and the ‘Pretty Please’ mode
Apparently, Google is also considering the issue of politeness when interacting with the Assistant. According to Rincon, this was one of the number one requests they had from parents, who wanted to make sure their children are polite when interacting with these devices. The ‘Pretty Please’ feature will be a device level setting, where the Assistant will now rely on positive reinforcement. The feature is already live. Rincon added, “The evolution of this could be encouraging the polite behaviour. In future Assistant could say hey you didn’t say please. But we are still trying to figure this out.”
Google Assistant will get richer, more visual and proactive
Google Assistant on the phone will be a lot richer and visual with card-like information on the phone when says a user makes a request for the upcoming events of the day. Or when the user puts a smart home request, the Assistant will show a visual representation.
Google says it will be like a shortcut to the types of things one wants to do with their smart home devices. For example, if someone asks the Assistant to turn down the heat on a thermostat, it will show a visual representation of the same. For India users, these might not be so relevant, given one would need smart home devices which are compatible with the Google Assistant, Home.
The Assistant will also be more proactive on the phone. For instance, if the user swipes up instead of asking questions, they will see a visual snapshot of their upcoming day from time to work, appointments, meetings, etc. Additionally, third-party note products will also work with Google Assistant in the future.
Google Assistant and Food delivery
Again the features appear to be limited to the US and those food-delivery apps which have created ‘Actions’ for the Assistant. A user will able to tell their Google Assistant to place their ‘usual order’ from say Starbucks. Google Assistant will show the order placed, the entire bill amount and again there is a focus on making this more visually appealing.
Google Assistant and Maps integration
According to Rincon, the team at Assistant had to be more thoughtful when it came to the Maps integration. “People don’t want the map navigation to go away while using the Assistant,” she explained. With Maps integration, users will be able to use Google Assistant during navigation, and send ETA via a message without having to touch the phone. Users can also change music, etc via the Assistant when using Maps for their daily commute. The navigation screen remains front and center in this mode.
Disclaimer: The author is in Mountain View, California at the invite of Google India.
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