Google I/O 2018: Google Assistant now talks in six voices, thanks to John Legend

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New Delhi | Published: May 9, 2018 1:17:57 AM

Google Assistant is also getting smarter with the introduction of a better understanding of linguistics. It can now understand and perform two actions in a single command.

Google Assistant is now available on over 500 million devices

At the Google I/O 2018, CEO Sundar Pichai began his keynote with an introduction to the world we are living in, as opposed to the same a while ago without the phones. Further elaborating on the need for phones and Internet, Pichai also stressed the need for the technology to ‘actually’ help humans. Amid the major announcements centred around the broader applications of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Pichai said that Google Assistant will now feature up to six new voices.

The six new voices that will be rolled to Google Assistant have been lent by the popular singer John Legend, who Pichai says spent a lot of time in the studios to lend his voice. The new voices will make people feel more connected, rather than alienated.

Scott Huffman, Vice President of Engineering, Google, took the centre-stage to announce that over 500 million devices are now powered by Google Assistant in nearly 30 languages in about 80 countries. Moreover, Google is now working to make Google Assistant deeply understand the social dynamics of the conversation. To do so, Google is reducing the frequency of the wake word to ease the flow of the conversation. Hoffman demoed on stage that the users don’t need to say ‘Hey, Google’ every time they ask a question or make a command in a threaded conversation.

Google Assistant is also getting smarter with the introduction of a better understanding of linguistics. It can now understand and perform two actions in a single command. For example, you can ask Google “How many runs did Mumbai Indian score yesterday and turn on the bedroom lights.” Both the actions – separated by the word ‘and’ – will be performed simultaneously. However, in the tricky situations where the word ‘and’ is a part of the single sentence, Google Assistant, with the help of AI and ML, will read it as one without getting perplexed. The new features will be arriving on Google Assistant later this year.

For the Google Assistant Family Link, Google is realising how kids are getting ‘bossy’ with the imperative command – ‘Hey, Google’. So, it is now teaching them to politely say ‘Please’ before or after making a query or command. Called the Pretty Please, Google Assistant for kids and families will work with more polite commands – to which there is an appreciation by the Assistant. This feature will be rolled out later this year.

As anticipated, Google is now turning its focus towards the smart speakers with displays to take on the Amazon Echo Spot, which was recently launched in India. Lilian Rincon, Director Product Management, Google, announced that the company is continuing the partnership with the hardware companies Lenovo, JBL, and LG to officially launch the new smart display speakers. The smart speakers with the display will harness Google Assistant to show necessary details from the Google apps, as well as partner apps. Moreover, it can play shows on YouTube and other video websites right on the screen. Google is also tying up with food outlets such as Domino’s, Starbucks to allow ordering the food directly from the speaker. These features will be rolled out this summer.

Moving on to the Google Assistant on the very familiar screens – our smartphones, Google is making a further step to redesign how Assistant shows the results. Google Assistant will now leverage the full display of the smartphone to show the videos, images, and other useful information about the topic in question. This will not only be visually appealing but also intuitive to the users. This feature will arrive on Android this summer while the Google Assistant for iOS will get it sometime later this year.

Google Assistant will now take up reservations in the background regardless of the online presence of the vendor. Assistant will make a call to a nearby business via a telephone. Called the Google Duplex, the automatic calling to the businesses is handled by Google Assistant very well, Pichai asserted. Google Duplex will make a call to the businesses on your behalf to make reservations and will return with an affirmation on the app. For example, if you want to make a reservation for a haircut on a particular date and time, Google Assistant will do that on its own in the background. The process involves calling a nearby salon manually and making a reservation to suit your needs. After everything is finalised, Assistant will let you know the details of your appointment.

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