In short: At its Made by Google event this week, the Google Assistant got a slew of new updates on the software side, while Google also debuted the new Home Hub. Now, Google has taken to its blog to highlight all of the new features that are coming to the Google Assistant. As expected, a number of these are having to do with Smart Displays, but there are some changes coming to Google Assistant on your phone as well.
On the smart display side of things, Google Assistant now gets multi-room audio, so that you can add your smart display to a group and play music throughout your home. Similar to what Sonos has been doing for a number of years now. Live Albums with Google Photos is also arriving. This is essentially turning your smart display into a digital picture frame. The Nest Hello Doorbell is also going to work a bit better with smart displays now. When someone is at the door, it is going to send you a notification and show you who is there, and also provide you with some quick responses you can send. So it'll be similar to the notifications you get on your phone for Nest Hello, but now on a larger display. Finally, there's Home View, which allows you to control all of your smart home devices in a single dashboard. It makes it all a bit more visual, which does make it easier to control. According to Google, these features will be rolling out over the next few weeks.
When it comes to the Google Assistant on your smartphone, it'll be able to Screen calls and block spam, as Google demonstrated on stage at the Made By Google event. So that when someone is calling, you can tap the "Screen Call" button and allow the Google Assistant to answer the phone. It'll then provide you a transcript of what's being said in real-time. Google says that it will launch on the Pixel 3 later this month, and will come to older Pixels in November. Also launching later this year, those using the Pixel in New York, Atlanta, Phoenix and San Francisco/Bay Area, will be able to use the Google Assistant Duplex technology to book a reservation at a restaurant. This was shown off during Google I/O later this year. Now there are a couple of features rolling out now. One is a visual snapshot of your day, so you can see what's happening, what's on your calendar and so forth. The other is the ability to use the Assistant without unlocking your phone.
Background: Google Assistant has steadily been getting updates over the past few years, since Google launched it in 2016. It was pretty decent when it came out – compared to Siri and Alexa – but it has continued to get better and it now can now really act like your own personal secretary or assistant. Google is also improving with the fragmentation it has between Assistant on different platforms which is also a good thing here.
Impact: A number of these features aren't rolling out until later on, but one feature that is available now is the ability to use Google Assistant without unlocking your phone. This is a pretty big deal. Seeing as up until now, if you said "OK Google" to your phone, and wanted to ask Google Assistant something, it was essentially useless until you unlocked it. Which pretty much negated the "always listening" part of the Google Assistant. This was a very popular feature requested for Google, and it's good to see it is finally rolling out.