Google Assistant, Google’s omnipresent AI that can switch off connected lightbulbs and give a rundown of the day’s events on command, is becoming more … ambient. Today at IFA 2019 in Berlin, the Mountain View company detailed Ambient Mode, a new visual overview that collates info and controls on select Assistant-enabled device lock screens.
“With the Google Assistant, we’re helping you get things done around the house — whether your hands are full in the kitchen, you’re too tired to get up from the couch after a long day, or you’re rushing to get out of the door,” wrote director of product Chris Turkstra in a blog post. “With the Assistant now available in more than 30 languages and 80 countries … you have even more ways to get help, whether you’re at home or on the go.”
Whether you’re using Google Assistant on a supported smart display, phone, or tablet like the newly announced Lenovo Smart Tab M8 HD, Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab, Nokia 7.2, and Nokia 6.2, Ambient Mode will bubble to the top relevant notifications, reminders, playlists, and settings toggles whenever your device is plugged in and actively charging. After you’ve finished perusing them, it’ll transition to a slideshow of photos from a linked Google Photos account.
In related news today, Google revealed that Assistant can now start hands-free audio and video calls from within compatible apps, with WhatsApp to start. Shouting “Hey Google, WhatsApp video John” in the WhatsApp client for Android kicks off calls in seconds, assuming you’ve got a speedy connection.
Hands-free calling appears to be a carryover feature from the Nest Hub Max, Google’s forthcoming smart display with a bulit-in camera. But as Turkstra points out, it’s a shoo-in for the slew of Assistant-powered headphones on the horizon, too, like the JBL LIVE300 TWS, Harman Kardon FLY ANC, Bose NC700, Cleer Flow II and Halo, Phillips PN505 and PH805, and Sony WI-1000XM2 and WH-H910N.
Those products will arrive alongside the new Assistant-enabled soundbars and voice-activated speakers announced this week, including (but not limited to) the JBL Link Music, Phillips AW25 and TAPN805, Konka G1, SEIKI Tough and Cigar, and Braun Audio LE01, LE02, and LE03. And they’ll in turn join a range of new Assistant-enabled TVs from brands such as Hisense, Sony, TCL, Philips, Changhong, Haier, Skyworth, Metz, Vestel, Sharp, JVC, XGIMI Projector, RCA, and SmartTech.
On the smart home side of the equation, Home Connect, the API that allows devices to connect to Bosch and Siemens home appliances, will soon add support for the Assistant across Bosch, Siemens, Neff, Thermador, and Gaggenau home appliances like dishwashers, washers, dryers, hoods, and vacuums. Among the future home products that’ll work with Assistant are the Electrolux Oven and Liebherr SmartDevice; the Bosch SmartHome Plug, Thermostat, and Light; and the Nuki Smart Lock and door opener.
Mum’s the word on the total number of smart home devices Assistant can now control, but Google in May pegged the number at north of 30,000. That was up from 10,000 in January.
“Together, these new Assistant-powered devices lets you easily control all the connected devices in your home, from lights, to thermostats, appliances, all in one simple place,” wrote Turkstra.
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