Google Assistant is finally going to be easier to use, according to Google. Just a few days after the company announced that the virtual assistant now works with over 5,000 devices, Google says that Assistant will soon not only sound more natural, you’ll be able to have a conversation with it.
Google announced a few new features for Assistant during it’s Google I/O keynote. The company calls its new conversational feature, appropriately, “Continued Conversation.” It looks a little creepy, because Google says the Assistant knows when you’re talking to it and answers accordingly. To some, this might seem like Google is always listening after you say the wake word. To others, the ability to talk to Google Assistant more like they’d talk to a person should make the tool much easier to use and, hence, more useful. The update is also a sign that the more useful virtual assistants become, the more privacy concerns will crop up.
In addition to this new conversational feature, Google is also updating the way that Assistant sounds. Basically, Assistant is now supposed to sound less like a robot thanks to some updated artificial intelligence. Google is also adding six new voices, and for some reason, John Legend’s voice will also be incorporated into Assistant later this year “in certain contexts.” On top of all that, Assistant will soon attempt to teach kids how to be polite with a new opt-in feature called “Pretty Please.” That means if you ask Assistant nicely to do stuff, Assistant will answer back politely. Manners are essential even when talking to machines.
And while the features aren’t necessarily new, Google showed off a bunch of visual features for Assistant—things like seeing a dial when you ask to adjust your smart thermometer or seeing a picture when you do a voice search. There will also be visual Assistant integration into Google Maps. Many of these updates were announced earlier this year, and some are already live. But Google is talking up the first Assistant-enabled smart displays from Lenovo, JBL, and LG which will go on sale in July.
Finally, Google showed us a weird but futuristic robocall feature for Assistant that’s still being developed. It’s called Duplex. The company showed a demo where Google Assistant called and talked to humans on the other end of the line in order to do basic things like make a hair appointment or a restaurant reservation. Google didn’t say when these new robocall features would be rolled out, but the company said the other Assistant updates will roll out in the coming weeks.