Google has finally announced that it will be adding text input for Google Assistant. The new feature was revealed at Google I/O 2017 on May 17th during the company’s keynote speech. To be sure, Google Assistant is already an incredibly useful tool for getting information, completing tasks, or controlling connected smart devices. Users have, however, been complaining about being forced to use the A.I.-driven digital assistant via voice controls almost since it was first unveiled at last year’s Google I/O event.
The new feature will work pretty much how you’d assume it would. When Google Assistant is called upon, either by voice or touch shortcut, a keyboard icon will appear alongside the usual UI components. Tapping the icon will bring up the keyboard and, while in text mode, Assistant it will act much closer to how it does in the company’s chat-bot assisted application, Allo. That means Google Assistant will provide visual responses to questions, instead of vocalizing them. The reason it responds visually instead of through sound probably comes back to the same reason Google is implementing the text feature, users will be able to see what those responses are thus having a more private interaction with Google Assistant than when using voice.
Using voice actions can be uncomfortable or embarrassing for some users and that’s especially true when the digital assistant is used in public. It can be equally uncomfortable listening to responses played out publicly, especially when more sensitive information is needed. So the new feature has likely been brought about as much to address privacy concerns as it is about opening up less embarrassing interaction options for users. Moreover, because the conversation with Assistant is tracked in text-mode, users can quickly and easily review a more complex conversation while it is still ongoing. With text inputs active, users can also return to using voice actions through the keyboard’s microphone, so activating text input won’t remove that option entirely. The timeframe for when the feature will be available is less clear. This feature, as is often the case with any new features, will be pushed in the form of a timed roll-out. So it will take time for the associated update to hit everybody.