Are you like millions of others who are turning their place into a "smart home?" This, of course, means a home that is equipped with electronic devices that can be controlled remotely by a computer or phone.
It's becoming so common that a world of virtual assistants (VA) has opened up. Instead of tapping an app to play your music, then another app to put on your lights, and yet another to turn down the thermostat, you can just do all that from a single home hub.
Even if you haven't used Siri or Alexa, I'm sure that you've heard of them. Those are the virtual assistants for Apple and Amazon gadgets like the Echo, Echo Dot and Apple's HomePod.
Another popular VA is Google Assistant and if you're not already a fan, you soon will be. That's because the tech giant has announced new features and updates that you're going to love.
What's coming to Google Assistant
Google Assistant can be found in multiple Google Home devices, the Google app, the most recent versions of Android, as well as Pixel phones. Google recently showed off some shiny new features of its Assistant at the I/O developer conference. Keep reading to find out what's new.
Easier to communicate
As you know, smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home are always listening. They are listening for the "wake" word. With Google Home devices, you say "OK Google" or "Hey Google" and it will wake your gadget so it can hear and reply to a request.
If you've ever used a virtual assistant, you know it can be frustrating trying to ask follow-up questions. Having to say OK Google before each question is annoying. The good news is, now you won't have to.
Google is adding a feature dubbed Continued Conversation. It will allow your Google Home device to continue listening for follow-up questions after saying the wake word just once. The Assistant will now know when you're talking to it as opposed to someone else and will respond accordingly.
The company said that Continued Conversation has been one of the most requested features by users. It is expected to roll out over the next several weeks.
Google said that the Assistant voice needs to feel both natural and personal. In the past, creating new voices took hundreds of hours in a recording studio. That's no longer the case.
Now, with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and WaveNet Technology from DeepMind, Google can create new voices in only a few weeks time. It's able to capture subtleties like pitch, pace, and all the pauses that give meaning. This will make the Assistant's voice natural-sounding and unique.
There are already six new voices available for your Google Assistant. Later this year, musician John Legend will lend his voice to your Google Assistant. It'll be like having a multi-Grammy award winning artist right in your home. Well, almost.
Now you're able to multitask
Another new feature is called Multiple Actions. It will allow for more natural conversations and let you ask multiple things at once.
Google Assistant can now understand more complex queries. For example, you can ask, "What's the weather like in Atlanta and Philadelphia?"
Google Assistant gives lessons in manners
Later this year, Google will introduce a feature called Pretty Please. It's designed to help teach young children manners.
It does so by giving them positive reinforcement when they make a request nicely. Google Assistant will understand and encourage polite conversation. What a great idea to help mold future generations.
Customize your Routines
Earlier in the year, Google came out with six ready-made Routines that help you accomplish multiple things with a single command. Now, it's launched Custom Routines that lets you create your own Routine with any of the Google Assistant's 1 million Actions. Plus, you can start your routine with a phrase that feels right to you.
For example, create a Custom Routine for family dinner. Simply say, "Hey Google, dinner's ready" and the Assistant will turn on your favorite music, turn off the television, and broadcast "dinner time!" to everyone in the house.
You can also schedule Routines for specific days or times. Just use the Assistant app or Google clock app for Android.
Google Assistant becoming more visual
Google will be releasing its first Smart Display gadgets this summer. They will come integrated with Google services like Calendar, Maps, and YouTube.
Instead of just listening for responses to your questions, you can quickly see responses provided by the Google Assistant. Either access the Assistant hands-free by voice, or tap and swipe the screen when that's convenient. Follow along with a recipe while making dinner, control your smart home appliances, watch live TV on YouTube TV, and make video calls with Google Duo.
More user-friendly on smartphones
You can expect a more visual experience from now on when using Google Assistant on your smartphone. The Assistant will focus on more visual responses. For example, when you ask it to search something, Assistant will show you related images for a more user-friendly experience.
The Assistant can also give you a snapshot of your day, with suggestions based on the time of day, location and recent interactions you've had with the Assistant. It's integrating popular notes and lists services from Google Keep, Any.do, Todoist and more.
Also, a new food pick-up and delivery experience is coming to the app later this year. Visually see menus and order from your favorite restaurants like Starbucks, Doordash, Dunkin' Donuts and more.
Assistant being added to Maps
Later this year, the Assistant is coming to navigation in Google Maps. It will have a low visual profile so you can have a safer driving experience.
You'll be able to send text messages, play music and podcasts, and get information without having to go away from the navigation screen.
For example, say "OK Google, read me my messages" and you will receive a summary of unread texts with the option to reply by voice. No more taking your hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. Nice!
If you have been thinking about getting into the world of smart speakers and can't decide which one to get, don't worry we've got ya covered. Click here for our comparison of Amazon Echo and Google Home.