Google makes conversations with voice-activated assistants more natural and easier

Google today announced three new features for its Assistant, which will all make interacting with it easier and more natural. The first feature is to make it easier to have a conversation with the Assistant by simply looking at a device like the Nest Hub with a built-in camera and talking to the Assistant without using the “Hey Google” wake word.

This will roll out to those who pair the Nest Hub Max with an Android device later this week, while iOS users will have to wait a few more weeks. Another new feature is expanded support for quick phrases, that is, the ability to use quick phrases to answer calls, turn off lights, or ask about the weather, all without using a wake word.

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This means that in the future, you’ll be able to simply set a timer without having to say “Hey Google.” Google notes that this is an opt-in feature that will use the company’s Voice Match feature, which is already available on the Nest Hub today.

Finally, Google is also making some changes to how Assistant handles your requests so it can better understand your intent, even if it has to correct itself or make small pauses when you think about how to phrase your question, E.g:

“We realized that when evaluating real conversations, they are full of nuances,” said Nino Tosca, director of product management for Google’s Voice team and Google Assistant. “People say ‘um’, breaks when two people talk back and forth, pauses, self-corrections — but we realize that these things are natural when two people are communicating. They don’t really prevent people from understanding each other.

[We tried to Bring these natural behaviors to Google Assistant so users don’t have to think before saying a command — or actually process the command in their heads, make sure they get every word right, and then try to express it perfectly. We want you to be able to talk to the Google Assistant like any other human being, that we will understand the implications and be able to implement your intent.”

Sadly, this feature is still in development but should roll out sometime in early 2023. Google always uses I/O to showcase upcoming features, even though some of them never come out, so we’ll just have to wait and see how this feature develops.

These improvements appear to be a useful addition to the Google Assistant feature set. After all, saying ‘Hey, Google’ will soon become obsolete, and it continues to feel a little weird. While many people have a bunch of Nest Hubs and Google Homes in their homes, most rarely have a conversation with it other than using their touchscreens to turn on lights and occasionally set cooking timers.

Google has big ambitions for “ambient computing,” but when the Assistant doesn’t understand you, and then randomly starts playing inexplicable videos on your TV, it’s still going to take a little tweaking for the technology to find its own future, like it does today Any improvements that remove these barriers are welcome.

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