John Legend is finally making his cameo debut on Google Assistant in the US, the search giant has revealed, after what seems to have been an extremely long wait even by Google’s standards. That means users will now be able to ask their AI helper questions or tell it a command and hear its quirky responses in the singer/songwriter's smooth-flowing voice on Google Home and other Assistant-enabled gadgets. Some of those responses will be unique to the feature while others are close approximations of current responses.
Users can turn on the feature in a couple of different ways but the singer’s voice talents won’t be available everywhere or to answer every query. Instead, those will be limited to surprise appearances for key questions or phrases such as “are we just ordinary people?” or “serenade me.” Asking Assistant to tell a joke and several other queries will queue up responses in John Legend's voice too.
Changing the voice is straightforward and requires a selection in “Assistant voice” section of the Assistant Settings menu. Mr. Legend’s likeness can be activated to respond more directly by telling Assistant to “talk like a legend.” After that, it's a simple matter of asking for the weather or for the Assistant to sing Happy Birthday to get started.
Almost a year's worth of weeks, to be exact
The feature may come as a surprise to some but the biggest surprise here is that users will be able to interact with "John Legend" via the Google Assistant at all. Google first announced the cameo appearance during its I/O Developers Conference in May of last year.
At the time, it was said that users would begin hearing John Legend's voice arriving "in the coming weeks." Technically, that promise still holds true but since that statement was made on May 8, the total number of weeks users have waited here is hardly arbitrary. In fact, it's been just over 47 weeks as of this writing, equating to almost a full year since the feature was unveiled at Google I/O 2018.
This isn't permanent, either
Whether or not the feature is ultimately worth the wait is going to be an entirely subjective matter and the feature itself isn't necessarily groundbreaking or of utmost importance. The change isn't exactly intended to patch a critical bug or vulnerability. Instead, it's intended to showcase Alphabet subsidiary DeepMind's WaveNet, just one advancement behind the more typical Google Assistant voices -- also available to developers -- that gives the assistant a more natural-sounding flow and tone.
Google also indicates this feature-highlighting voice option isn't going to be permanent and will be relatively limited. There's no specific timeline provided for how long Mr. Legend's voice will be available -- although one might hope that Google is using a similar understanding of timeframes here as it did when it made the announcement. Instead, the company simply states that it will be a "limited time" affair and one that will only run in the English language.
The final caveat seems to be that only users in the US will be able to activate John Legends voice for responses and there don't appear to be any plans to push its rollout any wider at all.