Google Assistant is now used by 500 million monthly active users, and today Google is previewing features on the way in 2020 like a new voice that reads articles and web pages aloud to users with a more natural and humanlike voice. Later this year, saying “Hey Google, read it” or “Hey Google, read this page” will trigger the assistant to read or translate text from an article or webpage into 42 languages. In a story told in a VentureBeat exclusive, Google brought article and webpage reading to its lightweight Go app in August 2018.
Longform reading will begin with articles and websites but may expand to areas like reading your emails in the future, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat.
Starting with Hisense and TCL televisions, Google Assistant is also coming to turned-off TVs, showcasing a range of new features today like a redesigned speed dial, sticky notes for smart displays, and new privacy-focused voice command. It’s all part of a range of announcements being made today at the start of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Google wants more TV manufacturers to install microphones for far-field voice recognition in order to make TV’s speakers function the same way a smart speaker works today, responding to voice commands to play music, check the weather, or ask a question. Google Nest smart displays today often share visual content in response to questions, but Google Assistant on televisions will act the same as a smart speaker, and only turn on the television if you say you want to watch a TV show or video content, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat.
Here’s a quick rundown of more of today’s news:
- Google Assistant is getting Scheduled Actions later this year, where you can ask the Assistant to turn on/off or start/stop a smart device at the time of your choosing. For example, you can say, “Hey Google, run the coffee maker at 6 a.m.”
- More privacy-focused voice controls like “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you” to delete a mistaken recording. Users who say “Hey Google, are you listening to me?” will now get a deep link to privacy settings in the Home mobile app so you don’t have to search to find them. Google introduced voice commands to delete voice recordings last year following revelations that third-party contractors listen to some voice recordings collected by Google, Amazon, Apple, and other major tech companies with digital assistants.
- Say “Hey Google, leave a note” and you can now place a Sticky Note to a Google Nest smart display for house guests or your family to see.
You can say “Hey Google, share my contacts” and the assistant will pull up all contacts from your smartphone on a smart display. Then you can choose your favorite 5-10 contacts to allow the smart display to place a call to from anyone in your household.
Key contacts will now get a dedicated card on smart displays. That means they’re always available when a user swipes right on the display together with cards for things like favorite playlists, reminders, and recommended news video. The new speed dial for Google Nest smart displays will be available later this year.
Google uses CES as a way to get in front of manufacturers in the year ahead and to underline the kind of areas Google Assistant will focus on in the year ahead.
Last year at the same spot in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center, Google introduced several new features, including Interpreter Mode for the translation of up to 27 languages. Last month, Interpreter Mode became available in 44 languages for smartphones to interpret 15-second snippets of conversation at a time.
Through a partnership with Volara and Sonifi, Google said today Interpreter Mode will be coming to verticals like airports and hotels in the U.S. and abroad to communicate with travelers and guests. Mercy Corps will be using Interpreter Mode on mobile devices to help Syrian refugees fill out forms and communicate.
Google said its assistant was on the way to being on a billion devices at CES last year, but this appears to be the first time Google shared a monthly active user metric for its digital assistant. Google Assistant is now available in more than 90 countries around the world and in more than 30 languages.
Changes are also on the way for smart home device usage with Google Assistant, as Google will now deep-link between smart home mobile apps and the smart home setup process within the Google Home app in order to complete setup of a smart home device. When a smart home mobile app and device are turned on, they will receive a push notification on their smartphone or a suggestion from the top of the Home app to complete setup.
In other news, on Monday Google’s chief rival Amazon released Fire TV Edition for Auto to bring Alexa and streaming video content to car infotainment systems, while Amazon’s Ring introduced a series of privacy-centered features.
For those new to Google Assistant, here’s a list of new things to try with a Google Nest smart speaker or smart display.