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Google Assistant is able to read web pages and news articles on Android devices worldwide today, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat. You can trigger the feature by simply saying “Hey Google, read it” or “Hey Google, read this page.”
If you land on a webpage in a language you don’t understand, Google Assistant is also able to read and translate 42 languages into your preferred language. A full list of supported languages can be seen in the video above.
Both reading and translation work on Android phones version 5 and above. Google Assistant reading text speaks with a different voice than the average Google Assistant. Members of the Google Assistant team said reading in a more natural voice is important for longform content.
In recent years, teams working on Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa have created neural networks capable of generating voices with more humanlike sounds and intonations.
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The feature made available today for Google Assistant was first introduced in preview in January at CES. New at launch: Android app developers can use the Actions by Google platform to bring the same text reading and translation to their apps.
Google’s latest feature for Android app developers follows news that Microsoft got rid of third-party skills for Cortana and Facebook Messenger did away with its Discovery tab for the Messenger bot ecosystem.
Longform text reading for Google Assistant will begin with articles and websites but may expand in the future to include emails, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat ahead of CES. Though Google Assistant reading content is new, Google has offered some form of website reading for Google Go app users in parts of the developing world since summer 2018. Also at CES in January, Google said Google Assistant is now used by more than 500 million monthly active users, and announced features due out later this year, like scheduled actions and the ability to leave a sticky note on a smart display.
In other news, Google decided on Tuesday to cancel the I/O developer conference typically held at the Shoreline Amphitheater near global headquarters in Mountain View, California. In a note posted on the event website, Google said it will reconsider ways to “evolve” the event in the weeks ahead.
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