As it currently stands, there are limited ways to call on the Google Assistant. With your voice or click of a button, you can pull up the Assistant on lots of different hardware. Google has even been seen working to bring the Assistant to Chrome on all platforms, so that would further increase the places Google Assistant can be used. Between iOS, Android, Chrome OS and Google Home devices, the reach is already quite broad from a platform perspective.
One of the larger current limitations, however, shows up when we start considering hardware triggers for the Google Assistant. They are actually few and far between. You have an Assistant button on a few Chromebook keyboards, the squeeze function on Pixel 2/3 phones, a dedicated Assistant button on some LG phones, a touch trigger on Google Home devices, and the upcoming Assistant button on the Stadia game controller. That’s about it.
I don’t know about most people, but I use the squeeze for Assistant action on my Pixel 3 XL almost every day. I don’t like Google always listening for my (or anyone else’s) voice, so a physical trigger is much more appropriate for my use. While I don’t trigger the Assistant all the time on my Pixelbook, I do from time to time and appreciate the key being there. In the not-to-distant future, all Chromebooks will have a quick shortcut to the Assistant via the SEARCH + A key combo, but that still doesn’t really add too much to the number of devices made with a hardware trigger for the Assistant.
That Looks To Be Changing
According to this commit from the Chromium Repositories, it seems that work is being done to democratize the Google Assistant hardware button. You can take a look at this document that is referenced in the commit and see language like this:
We would like to propose new usage for launching a desktop assistant application.
Keyboards and other human interface devices may have dedicated keys or buttons for launching desktop assistant applications. We are proposing a new usage to support these as HID inputs.
This change will allow manufacturers to put Google Assistant buttons on HIDs (human interface devices) as they see fit. Want to make headphones with an Assistant key? How about a mouse with an Assistant button? Or a keyboard? Or a stylus?
With this change, the Assistant will be called on just like any other key on a keyboard that can be freely mapped and assigned at will. This change will open up the ability for peripheral makers to add Google Assistant into accessories with greater ease and should help Google’s efforts in getting the Assistant into as many hands as possible.
The question really becomes what will come of all this? It’s anyone’s guess what types of implementations we’ll see down the line, but the possibilities feel a bit endless. I don’t think we’ll be seeing Windows or Mac devices with an Assistant button anytime soon, but I’d gladly welcome a Assistant buttons on headphones, mice and keyboards right now.