The sleep timer feature found in Google's Assistant is reportedly broken for some users. That's the timer utility that plays music or a playlist for a set period of time. Specifically, when users ask Google to "set a sleep timer" for any length of time. Google built the feature to play a selection of music or audio files until the user falls asleep. Then it turns the audio off automatically.
Instead of playing the selection though, users on Reddit are reporting a wide array of error messages.
Error messages have varied depending on the user but commonly indicate that the Assistant doesn't know how to accomplish the task. For instance, it may respond with "Sorry, I can’t help with that" message. Or it might respond "Sorry, I'm not sure how to help with that."
The sleep timer is not the Assistant's first broken feature
Now, Google has gone out of its way to continually improve Google Assistant, and errors are not necessarily common. But those updates have come at a rapid clip, increasing the likelihood that errors will occur. Most recently, the company set out to improve individual identification for its AI-driven helper and stacked in a sensitivity adjustment slider to boot.
It's not immediately clear whether or not the broken Google Assistant sleep timer is the result of code changes in a recent app or server-side update. But while errors in Assistant have been relatively rare, this isn't the first time something has broken. And that seems to be the most likely scenario, with consideration for previous issues.
Google doesn't seem to have acknowledged the error yet either. But it's likely that the error is in one of the above-mentioned new features.
One of the most prominent of those prior problems was connectivity issues caused by Google Assistant on Android Auto. That fix was first reported earlier this year and resulted in error messages. Summarily, users couldn't connect to the internet with Google Assistant in Android Auto.
Some workarounds are reported but they don't work for everybody
Since Google may or may not be working on a fix, it could be some time before any users experiencing the issue can use the broken sleep timer in Assistant. There are, however, one or two workarounds in the meantime.
Among possible fixes, users can reportedly simply include the sleep timer in a routine. By setting up a bedtime routine to play a list of songs and then a sleep timer, some users have been able to bypass the more on-demand sleep timer problem.
In some cases, users are also able to change the way they ask for a sleep timer, and then the feature works. For instance, asking Google to set a sleep timer until a specific time instead of for a set length of time seems to work. Conversely, asking Assistant to play music until a set time also works.
None of those workarounds is guaranteed to work though. So this is a problem that Google will likely want to fix quickly. Otherwise, it may start losing users to alternative AI assistants from Amazon or Samsung.