Google has recently announced that the Google Assistant can now simultaneously understand two languages. With this new feature, people can interchangeably ask questions or issue instructions using two languages, and the Google Assistant can immediately respond to the person using the language of the original question or voice command. However, at this point, this feature only supports six languages, including English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish, although the search giant promises that it will add support for more languages soon. To take advantage of the feature, users should proceed to the Google Assistant settings and select two supported languages. Before this functionality was rolled out, users will have to change their settings every time they want to use a different language in communicating with the Google Assistant. This new feature will benefit users who live in bilingual communities like Quebec, Canada, where the majority of residents speak both English and French.
Google Assistant’s multilingual support is a part of the search giant’s efforts to make the user’s conversations with the artificial intelligence companion more natural. The development of this feature actually started back in 2013, when the search giant started working on the spoken language ID technology (LangID). Five years later, the LangID models can now distinguish more than 2000 pairs of languages. However, while the models for recognizing language pairs are already in place, identifying the language of the voice command increases the processing time of the instruction, which may result in a slower response to the commands issued by the user. This concern prompted the search giant to temporarily limit the number of languages supported by the multilingual feature to six, although the search giant noted that more languages will be added soon as it optimizes the models used in distinguishing the languages.
According to a recent post on the search giant’s technical blog, Google’s researchers are already working to increase the number of languages simultaneously supported by the Google Assistant from two to three, although this feature would require further improving the LangID models. Furthermore, Google is also working to increase the number of languages that its virtual assistant can understand to thirty by the end of the year.