Earlier this month, the Google Assistant made its debut in the Developer channel of Chrome OS. The new setting lacked any functionality and has since been removed as work continues on this exciting new feature.
Another interesting development has manifested in the latest update to the Developer channel involving Google’s smart-helper. This time, the Assistant appears to be getting paired with a stylus.
Our friends over at ChromeStory reported on a recent addition to the Chromium code that made reference to an “Assistant Pen.” I have been mulling over this new discovery trying to wrap my head around the use-case and the implementation of such a feature. Today, the puzzle has started to come together.
I moved my Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook back to the Developer channel to see what was new in the latest update. As usual, I went through and enabled a number of flags to see if any new functions were working. One flag I always enable is “force enable stylus features.” It’s exactly what it sounds like. The Flex 11 doesn’t have a native stylus but this setting will give you the tiny pen icon on your shelf to access stylus functions even without the pen.
When I clicked the icon I saw the usual suspects. Capture region, capture screen, laser pointer and magnifying glass. If you have a Samsung Plus or Pro these settings are probably familiar to you. I also found a “create note” option which I believe is new but wasn’t surprised by as that’s what you do with a stylus. What I didn’t expect to see was this:
Right below “create note” you can see the Assistant logo and the message “Assistant (loading…).” I am sad to report that feature never actually loaded or did anything for that matter. It did prompt me to dig around the Chromium repository a bit and I found something very interesting.
Robby reported last month that a new type of stylus was coming to Chrome OS. The pen will be equipped with barrel buttons just like you would find on devices like the HP Envy line. These buttons are often customizable based on the user’s preferences.
Well, it looks like some future Chromebook stylus may have a dedicated Assistant button right on the barrel.
The commit targets setting barrel button drag on Windows device presumably using the Chrome browser. That’s really not important at this juncture but the comment buried at the bottom of the page is what caught my eye.
ChromeOS uses the barrel button for assistant;
It is still unclear as to whether or not this new function will be platform-wide of we will see it on a specific device such as ‘Eve’. Either way, this now adds a third way to access the Google Assistant on Chrome OS. We know there will be a physical key for the Assistant on future devices and a possible keystroke for Chromebooks already on the market.
Google is making a major push to get the Assistant on as many platforms and devices as possible and this will be a massive addition to the Chrome OS landscape. If the Assistant isn’t your thing, fear not. From our research, it looks as though users will be given the option at setup as to whether or not it is enabled on their device.
Source: Chromium repository