Google Assistant to be available over toll-free call to Indian users

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New Delhi | Published: September 19, 2019 6:52:16 PM

Phone Line with Google Assistant will roll out to Vodafone Idea customers across India

Google on Thursday announced it has partnered Vodafone Idea to integrate the Google Assistant to voice calls, eliminating the need for an app or interface to interact with the digital voice assistant.  Called Phone Line, the service will be available in Hindi and English to the subscribers of Vodafone and Idea mobile services. Google said it is willing to partner other telcos in future, which includes Reliance Jio, Airtel, and BSNL.

Phone Line is essentially a non-Internet based service available over a toll-free number – 0008009191000 – only for Vodafone and Idea customers currently who can simply dial and ask Google Assistant whatever they want to. Google is making a few changes to optimise the functionality for non-visual interaction. After setting up prerequisites such as location and language on Phone Line, users can begin asking Google Assistant questions, the top result for which will be given.

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As a part of Google’s bullish efforts into India’s digital realm, Phone Line may prove to be helpful for a large fraction of consumers who do not use Internet or are not educated enough to access apps on phones. Google says neither the Assistant nor the telecom company will store any call data and that concrete checkpoints have been fostered to ensure security during the call. The infrastructure is being provided by Vodafone Idea while Google is deploying Assistant into the backend.

Phone Line will be a signed-out functionality, which is why every call will be fresh, unlike the regular mechanism in which Google Assistant brings results relevant to the user’s preferences. That being said, Google Assistant will carry out contextual conversation with the user on Phone Line. This means the user can ask follow-up questions on a topic without having to mention it in every question.

Before the launch, Google conducted trials for Phone Line in the cities of Lucknow and Kanpur where, Google said, the users asked a variety of questions ranging from local weather to tricky questions such as those asked in exams.

Caesar Sen Gupta, vice president, Next Billion Users Initiative and Payments at Google India, also announced a new Google Research India AI lab in Bengaluru that will focus on computer science research in the fields of Machine Learning, Computer Vision, and more.

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