Google’s installation at CES
In recent years CES has emerged as an arena where Google and Amazon do battle for dominance in the domain of voice controlled digital assistants. This year is no exception with the Assistant and Alexa offering new functions and appearing in more devices. Here are five new functions the Assistant will roll out to users in 2020.
A list of emergency numbers attached to the refrigerator door can be a lifesaver if you have access to a phone and can dial the number quickly under pressure. The same list is even better on a smart display. Tap the number or issue a voice command and the Assistant dials the number for you. The list will be controlled by the smart display’s account holder and it can be modified at any time.
Household notes on a smart display
Sticky notes are one of those small things like zippers and paper clips that make life so much easier. Google calls the digital version Household Notes. “Hey Google, leave a note that says . . .” will put a note on a smart display for all to read. It may not be more functional than a refrigerator door or a whiteboard, but talking is easier than writing and the notes will be a lot easier to read.
Suppose you have an irregular schedule that gets you up at different times on different days. Before you go to bed you’ll be able to use the Home app or simply tell the Assistant to turn up the thermostat, turn on the lights and start up the coffee maker at different times so you’re warm and can see where you’re going to get the hot cup of coffee that’s waiting for you. Scheduled Actions roll out “later this year” and Google promises they will work with more than 20 devices such as robot vacuums and AC units.
If you find an interesting webpage that you’d rather listen to than read, the Assistant will have you covered. Open a webpage, say “Hey Google, read it” and a natural sounding voice will read it to you. Read It will translate 42 languages into the user’s language and irrelevant text such as inserted ads and navigation links won’t be read. The page will scroll and the read text will be highlighted which could make Read It a useful tool for improving reading skill.
If you’ve used a digital assistant you know that sometimes they mishear and wake up and start recording when you didn’t call them. Say “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you” and whatever the Assistant just heard will be deleted. The same command deletes a recording made when you purposefully query the Assistant. Activate Continued Conversation and you can easily delete any interchange with the Assistant you just had that you don’t want Google to keep. If you want to review and change your preferences for how Google handles your audio data, “Hey Google, are you saving my audio data?” will take you the settings screen on your phone. Both of these privacy controls are available now and I found “that wasn’t for you” very useful when I said “Hey Google” out loud while proofreading this article.