Another year, another blast of Google Assistant news on the first official day of CES.
Google slimmed things down a touch for CES this year, though they’ve still got a big presence here. While they didn’t build a whole damn amusement park ride this time around, they’ve still got a massive two-story booth (complete with slides?) parked right outside the front doors of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
As with last year, just about everything Google is showing off at CES 2020 is focused around the company’s voice-powered AI helper, Google Assistant.
Here’s what’s new:
- Webpage reading: Been meaning to read that long article all day, but don’t have 20 minutes to stare at your phone? Folks on Android devices will soon be able to say “Hey Google, read this page” and Assistant will fire up its neural networks to generate a pretty lifelike reading, with the system only reading the relevant text (assuming all is working as planned) while avoiding mentioning things like social sharing buttons or the page’s myriad navigation options. Google says it also wants to make the page autoscroll/highlight text as it reads, though it sounds like that may come a bit later down the road.
- Scheduled actions: You’ll soon be able to make one-off requests for things you want to happen later in the day, like “Hey Google, turn on the lights at 6 pm.” Sorta surprising this wasn’t already a thing.
- Sticky notes: Ever written something on a Post-it and put it wherever someone would see it as soon as they walked in the door? Google is taking that idea and putting it on their smart displays, allowing you to say things like “Hey Google, leave a note that says ‘Don’t forget to pack’ ” to pin a note to the lock screen (visible by all) accordingly.
- Speed Dial: If that sticky notes feature is meant to replace the front door Post-it, this one is meant to replace that list of important phone numbers stuck to the fridge door for the babysitter. You’ll be able to add a handful of phone numbers to a smart display’s lock screen, allowing anyone to quickly call those contacts with a tap or voice command.
- More businesses using Interpreter Mode: Announced at CES last year, interpreter mode allows an Assistant-powered smart display to translate a conversation between two people, each speaking a different language. Google says more businesses have committed to using it this year, including American Airlines, HSBC banks and a handful of hotels around Vegas, San Francisco, LA, Japan and Qatar.
- Uh, forget I said that: Google Assistant isn’t supposed to record anything you say unless you start the sentence with “Hey Google”… but, well, that doesn’t always work. Sometimes things on TV will cause Assistant to perk up its ears; other times you might be mid-conversation and only realize you somehow caught Assistant’s attention when it responds “Sorry, I can’t help with that.” With that in mind, you’ll now be able to say “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you” to have it wipe its history of the last thing you said.
The one catch: As with most new Google Assistant features, the company isn’t getting too specific about when this stuff is rolling out, saying only that it’ll come “later this year.”