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Google announced that wireless headphones made to work especially with Google Assistant are on the way from brands like JBL, Sony, and LG. The news was part of a slew of announcements made in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.
Before today, some of the only headphones optimized for Google Assistant were the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and Pixel Buds, Google’s first-ever wireless headphones.
Also announced today: Google Assistant is coming to a series of new smart speakers — including some with visual touchscreen displays — and Google Assistant will become the assistant for Android Auto.
Google Assistant can be accessed through any pair of wired or wireless headphones connected to an Android device, but headphones with this kind of integration allow you to access the AI assistant without opening your phone. By touching a button on the side of the headphones, you can speak directly with Google Assistant to do things like create calendar events, make phone calls, and receive auditory push notifications.
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Google Assistant with these headphones can also read and let you reply to incoming text messages or incoming messages received through chat apps like Facebook Messenger and SMS.
“There’s a whole crowd of people who wear their headphones throughout the day and this has kind of enabled them to do their messaging and notifications without having to pull their phone out,” Google Assistant VP Scott Huffman told VentureBeat in an interview.
The news of more headphones with Google Assistant inside comes days after Amazon announced the launch of its Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit to put the AI assistant into more headphones and wearable devices. Brands like Bose, Jabra, and iHome are already using the version of the Alexa Voice Service made especially for wearables.
Today, notifications delivered from headphones optimized for Google Assistant access make no distinction between notifications you receive in your ear and those you see on your phone.
Reviews of the Google Assistant experience with Pixel Buds and Bose QuietComfort 35 II found this to be a standout issue, since accessing the real estate in your ears is markedly different from delivering a buzz in your pocket or a card that pops up on your phone’s lock screen.
No adjustment settings were initially made available, Google Assistant VP Scott Huffman said, because his team didn’t want to give users too many initial options or build fine-grade settings into the experience. Better to add these sorts of options to future iterations, Huffman said.
“Our tendency is to start from the other side and say let’s have a setting that is like ‘Turn them all on or off’, and in some sense see who complains and see what categories people want. So I think we can’t promise [auditory notification customization], but I know the team’s thinking about how we evolve that. We just wanted to start a little bit simpler and see what we really need,” he explained.