Google has taken to the stage at the annual Google I/O Developers Conference 2019 to showcase the next-generation of its AI Assistant, aimed at making use of the helper more contextually aware as well as less time-consuming or annoying.
The most obvious change the company plans to bring forward with the impending update centers around what will probably feel like a nearly complete removal of the need for an "Okay Google" keyword. Summarily, users won't need to say the phrase every time they want to interact with the AI under every circumstance.
Referred to by the company as ‘Continued Conversation’, the feature builds on earlier conversational AI improvements to allow not only ongoing interaction within a single context but true Assistant multitasking. The update coincides with the addition of more contextual results based on the user's individual device or other circumstances too, allowing device controls more akin to Samsung's Bixby than the previous iterations of Assistant.
That means that a user can seamlessly move from asking the assistant to pull up a specific trip or timeframe in Google Photos to narrowing down that search and incorporating a specific photo into an email or message. In fact, that will all be without having to call Google out by name again. Similarly, new wake words such as "stop" or "reply" have been added to ensure that certain tasks like timers or alarms don't require the 'Google' wake word at all.
A more personal assistant everywhere
Not only will the assistant perform more naturally, with apparent awareness for apps on a given device, location, and other key metrics. The tool will be able to recognize phrases themselves more naturally as well and it will do so with more consideration for the user’s circumstances.
With the addition of Personal References, users will be able to ask questions pertaining specifically to themselves such as what traffic or weather is like at their “mom’s house.”
Reminders highlight the feature further since users can ask to be notified at a future date or time in a similar fashion. Among Google’s examples touted at I/O 2019, users can tell Assistant to remind them to “Order flowers a week before” their “sister’s” birthday. The AI will be able to work out that they are talking about their sibling, which sibling they are referring to, and set the reminder.
Pulling data from Google maps and other areas where details have been taken, Assistant will also be able to provide more personal responses for general requests. For instance, it will take the time of day and food preferences into account when responding to general queries looking for good recipes.
In the car, on the web, and growing Duplex starting with Pixel
To begin with, Google is going to make controlling a vehicle remotely a much easier task. Starting with Hyundai’s Blue Link and Mercedes-Benz’s “Mercedes me connect” within the “coming months,” users will be able to accomplish things like adjusting the A/C system, checking fuel levels, and more directly via Assistant and without needing to ask the AI for the app directly.
As early as this summer, that will be taken further via the addition of a simple "Hey Google, let’s drive," command to launch a new 'driving mode'.
The new hands-free mode will bring forward a new dashboard focused on keeping the user’s attention on the road. It will include automated personal suggestions, help for answering calls via voice, automatically resume media playback over Bluetooth, or even provide directions for a previously set reservation without the need for extra input.
Building on that, Assistant will be brought over from Google Maps to the company’s other driving app, Waze, within the next few weeks.
On the web front, Google is working to integrate Assistant through Duplex, allowing the previously call-focused appointment setter to fill out forms online. In essence, it will be able to set new types of reservations that don’t require AI to human interactions.
For example, users will be able to pull data from a planned trip with details stored in Gmail and other information such as payment preferences to book a car reservation online. Simply asking the AI to book the vehicle will start the process, saving stress and time. Similar commands will let the user reserve and buy movie tickets and accomplish other tasks in the English language in the US and UK on Android at an unspecified point later this year.
Of course, the latest changes will all be coming to the company’s own Pixel gadgets first and coincide with more deep-rooted alterations to make Google Assistant much faster. But it shouldn't take too long before the features begin trickling down to other handsets as well, making the entire experience far less bothersome for everybody in the process.