Google Assistant in India is coming to phones in India without any internet, as it will soon be available via a phone call. At its annual Google for India event in Delhi, the company also announced a slew of other new features for Assistant in India, including language decoupling, food delivery support, App Actions, and the interpreter mode in Hindi.
“We introduced Assistant in Hindi and added another eight regional languages. Hindi is now the second most used language for the system globally, only after English, and across all the devices. It’s a testament to the growth that we’re seeing in the market,” Manuel Bronstein, VP Product Management for Google Assistant revealed in interaction with indianexpress.com ahead of the announcements.
Google Assistant Phone Line
The dedicated Google Assistant-powered phone line will be for Vodafone-Idea subscribers in India. Bronstein revealed that Google initially ran a pilot of this feature in Lucknow and Kanpur. The new feature is aimed at users who have poor internet connectivity or have feature phones or those still on 2G phones where Google Assistant might not always work online.
Users will be able to dial 000 800 9191 000 to connect to the Vodafone-Idea Phone Line with Google Assistant, and then ask it questions like they would do to the Assistant on the phone. The Google Assistant phone line will work in both English and Hindi. Google says the Assistant phone line will help subscribers get information like weather details, traffic updates, which shops are open, answers to maths problems, and even read out news articles, just like it does on the phone.
When asked about the pilot study, Bronstein revealed that Google measured how much people were using the Assistant phone line. “It was a very big rage. We saw a lot of people actually looking for help. Parents tried to help their kids with homework. We saw people asking about sports scores, or asking about whether a store was open,” he said.
Another interesting point that Google saw was that people asked multiple questions in one phone call once they realised the Assistant would respond to their queries. Google says the calls to the Assistant phone will be free-of-charge, any time of day or night. The service is available today.
Google is introducing a feature called Language decoupling for the Assistant in India. Under this while a user will have the option of talking to the Assistant in their regional language, say Hindi for example, their phone’s language settings will not get changed. So users will be able to continue with English as the language for their phone, while talking to their Assistant in their preferred regional language.
Google says users will be able to say “Hey Google, talk to me in Hindi” to start using the Assistant in the language. They will not have to go to settings to change the language. Google says it is rolling this feature out on all Android, Android Go and KaiOS devices.
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Explaining the reason behind this feature, Bronstein said this was a user-requested feature.
“One of the things that users told us that was very fascinating is that, hey, when I talk to the Assistant in Hindi, I don’t necessarily want to set my phone to Hindi as well. I want to keep my phone in English. We’re hoping and expecting that people are going to be happy with that, because it’s something that they were asking for,” he said.
Google is partnering with local brands to bring the App Actions feature to its Assistant in India. So users will be able to book a cab with Ola, or ask Healtifyme for their calorie update or check their bank balance on Kotak Mahindra Bank app via the Assistant.
Essentially a user will be able to talk to the Google Assistant and given commands like Book an Ola or Check bank balance for the Kotak bank account. Assistant will then open the relevant portion in the app. The feature rolls out later to Google Assistant in India.
App Actions have been available in the US for sometime and was announced last year. The service integration is now coming to India. Apple’s Siri already offers a similar feature in India where users can ask it to book an Uber.
The Interpreter mode is a real-time translator and Google is extending this beyond its smart home displays. The Interpreter mode is coming Android and Android Go phones in India in the coming months, and will basically let two people have a conversation in Hindi and English.
To give an example, an English speaker will be able to request the Assistant to ‘Help me speak in Hindi’ with someone else who can converse in Hindi. Google’s will launch the interpreter mode on the Assistant and it will show real-time translations for Hindi and English based on inputs from both the speakers.
Similarly, Hindi speakers will be able to ask Google to help them converse in English. When a Hindi speaker talks in Hindi, their input will be translated into English and also read out loud by the Assistant for the other party to hear.
Google Assistant to show video news
Google Assistant in India will soon show video news as well. The contents will be in English and Hindi depending on the user’s language preference.
“We wanted to make sure that we bring in new functionality to the product that makes sense in the market. We realize that especially in India video is super interesting and important. So we’re announcing a product that’s called video news that allows you to ask your assistant for the same,” Bronstein said.
“You could say, okay, Google show me Hindi News. And it will give you some news and video news as well from our local partner and local media companies,” he added. Google News in the video will be available on the Assistant later on.
Google Assistant and Food Delivery
Google Assistant in India will also support Food Delivery, another feature which has been available in the US for sometime. Google is partnering with players Domino’s, FreshMenu, Faasos, Dunzo, and other players in India. The feature will roll out later towards the end of the year.
With the Food delivery feature, users will be able to give a command to the Assistant like ‘Hey Google order a pizza from Dominos’ and it will open the relevant page to let users place their preferred order.