All Chromebooks may soon be able to turn on Google's AI-powered Assistant at some point in the near future, based on a recently spotted flag found in the OS's hidden settings menu for the Canary Channel of the platform. For clarity, that's the experimental features menu found at "chrome://flags" and will only appear on Chrome OS devices and anybody interested in checking it out will need to switch over to the highly unstable Canary Channel first. While there's no feasible way to test every Chromebook for compatibility, the setting does claim it will work for "all" of them. Discoverable by searching for the term '#enable-native-google-assistant', switching the flag to 'enabled' does exactly what its name implies. In short, it adds Google Assistant just as it appears in the latest Android 9 Pie build for the search giant's Pixelbook, complete with prompts for activating it and voice interactive features.
Background: The addition of Google Assistant to Pixelbook isn't really a new development but the company has gone through several iterations of the app before finally settling on the more deeply integrated variant enabled by Android 9 Pie. That appeared just a few days ago on the Canary With the latest incarnation, found in the Chrome 72 flavor of the Canary Channel, the voice-enabled AI appears under the circle icon at the left-hand edge of the OS's app shelf inside the app launcher above the recent apps UI. Conversely, it may be launched by simultaneously pressing both the search and 'A' keys or by voice activation after that's been turned on. Once active, alerts from Assistant, including reminders, timers, and more will appear in the system tray alongside other notifications. Prior to this implementation Assistant had been introduced in the Canary Channel for Chrome OS 70 but had mostly been decorative and caused crashes rather than functioning properly.
Impact: While the appearance of Google Assistant in the latest version of Chrome OS may seem to indicate that it won't become available in the consumer-ready Stable Channel, that may not turn out to be the case. Development of the native feature has occurred fairly rapidly since launching just a few days ago and it could land as early as Chrome OS 71. Version 70 of the OS already began rolling out earlier this month, so it won't likely appear there. On the other hand, there may still be a number of smaller bugs to be sorted out. If that's the case, it's likely the feature will arrive on the stable version of the OS with Chrome 72.