Google Assistant is a virtual assistant which uses AI (Artificial Intelligence) to allow you to communicate with your device by voice, like asking questions, setting reminders and alarms. It was first released on the messaging app Allo and Google Home speaker in May 2016. It was then rolled out to various Google devices like the Pixel smartphone, but was still only available exclusively on Google devices. However it was made available on all Android devices in February 2017 and 3 months later on iOS as an app. Since then it has gone from strength to strength and is integrated with over 10,000 different makes and types of devices. So popular in fact that Google estimate there are nearly 1 BILLION devices in the world using the virtual assistant.
What can it do?
- To activate it by voice you can either say “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” then ask your questions. Or you can hold down the home button to open Google Assistant.
- You can get updates when you wake up by saying “Hey Google, Good morning” and it will read out the weather for the day, the news, and you can customise it to play your favourite radio station too.
- Set reminders by saying “Ok Google, ask me to buy dog food when I go shopping” and you can either say a time, or it will recognise when you are in the location of a supermarket and remind you which is very clever.
- Ask Google what song is playing and it will listen and tell you. Or even better if you remember a line from a song but don’t know the title, just say “Ok Google, play the song that goes I would walk 500 miles” and it will find it and play it on Spotify, or whatever other music app you have.
- You can ask for directions to a place and it will set it up on Google Maps. But it will also get to know your regular routes like going to work and in the morning you will get a notification about how long your commute will take that day.
- You can also ask the assistant to send a text or even make a call.
- Google Assistant can also be used to control your smart home. Providing you have smart devices linked to your Google account you can ask it to “turn the kitchen lights on” or “play The Crown on Netflix on the living room TV”. Once it starts learning your routine it can do things like turning the heating on to warm up ready for when you get home or turning lights on and off at certain times.
- It’s not just a voice assistant. You can type questions if you don’t want to ask something out in public. It also has an updates page which will get better the more you use it. For example if you frequently search Google for stocks or latest motor racing results, Assistant recognises that and will show recent results. It also shows the weather in your location, the time it will take to do your commute that day, or the route to an event that’s in your calendar, upcoming meetings for that day and even suggest nice spots for lunch nearby.
Does it actually work?
I have been using Google Assistant since it first launched on Android and at first it was a bit of a novelty. However, as it has evolved over the years it has become better at understanding your voice to the point that it rarely misunderstands what you are asking. It’s also very good at recognising your voice and even in loud environments with lots of background noise it still understands exactly what you are saying. As it uses Google’s vast array of learning and data that currently gives it the upper hand on Alexa (Amazon) and Siri (Apple). I would go as far as saying it completely transforms your experience using a smartphone or smart speaker, it is just really intuitive and easy to use.
What will it be like in the future; could we have it built in to our bodies so you could ask the Google Assistant through thought? One thing we do know is it can be integrated within many devices which companies like Bose have already done with sunglasses and earphones.
Overall the Google Assistant is a really useful piece of tech and it’s only going to get better as their data and knowledge about the world improves. It’s going to be very exciting to see what Google do with Assistant in the coming years, we can’t wait.