The selection of voice apps available for Google Home has grown larger in recent weeks, and now includes a Google I/O action, a guess-the-startup-founder game show, and a service that features favorite poems as read by actors and actresses.
Voice apps on Google Assistant are called actions. Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa refer to these as skills.
More than a dozen third-party actions have been made available to Google Assistant for Google Home users in recent weeks, and more than 230 third-party actions are now listed by the Google Home app since the launch of the Actions on Google platform last December.
It’s going to be an exciting, interesting few weeks in the intelligent assistant world as Microsoft is widely expected to release its Cortana software development kit and the Cortana Skills Kit for making third-party integrations for the intelligent assistant later this week at the Build conference. The Harman Kardon Invoke with Cortana inside is due out in fall 2017. Amazon is also expected to release a new touchscreen Alexa-enabled device this month just weeks after the Echo Look hit the market.
The My Favorite Poems action made by Opearlo features poems read by professional actors. Each poem in the collection can be “pinned” or saved for later, so you can make your own collection of favorites as you listen to performances from actors and actresses. Could we get a poetry equivalent of Spotify that learns your taste and helps you discover new poems? I sure hope so.
Last week VentureBeat published a story stating that a Google Home action for Google I/O was released, then pulled back. The action was likely pulled because it didn’t work. Well, Google has released the action again ahead of the conference taking place May 17-19 in Mountain View, California. Now it can give you a full description of any I/O session by topic from Google Play to VR to machine learning and AI.
While the action has much to say about sessions, it’s mum on the keynote, where most of the news is actually made. Ask about keynotes and the Google I/O action says: “Oh, the keynote is going to be awesome this year. Sundar Pichai will start at 10 a.m. on the first day.”
Ask other questions and the action may say little random things like “There are rumors of swag at I/O. Some say if you think hard enough it will appear.”
In other new services, the UV Meter action will tell you the current ultraviolet (UV) rays index in a given city. This action joins others built to deliver information about the world around you, including actions made to tell you about tide levels and air quality.
The Time Machine action will summarize and provide new headlines for any date in history going back more than 150 years. This skill draws upon New York Times headlines published between 1851 to the present.
Continuing a trend of games for Google Home on Google Assistant, 6 Swords is an interactive role-playing game (RPG) that lets you “manage a team of six mercenaries.” In the game you can move in any direction through towns, prairies, castles, and dungeons.
Players can collect gold, recruit other mercenaries, fight other players, and exchange items like gold or weapons. Each mercenary has a specific amount of hit points when they battle others, and players can interact via an online forum.
The Guess the Founder game asks you questions about startup founders, and the Hitchhiker’s Guide Quiz asks Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy questions.
As is sometimes the case in burgeoning voice app ecosystems, both of these actions are a great idea, but the data or corpus of knowledge they draw upon falls short. The same can be said of the new Date Night action. Examples of Google Assistant actions that draw upon large amounts of knowledge include WikiHow for DIY tips and the Bible reader action from bible.com.
There’s also a Voice Tic Tac Toe action, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Other recent additions include The Piano Guy, Utah Football Fan Trivia, and WUFT, only the second local radio station available as a Google Assistant action. Google Assistant actions, though in truth no actions are necessarily needed for radio stations since Google Assistant will play any radio station you ask it.