A couple weeks ago, in a reality that feels like it was months ago, I put out a quick piece on a new feature that Google Assistant now has on your phone that gives it the ability to read aloud basically anything on the internet. Not only does it read things, it does so with natural pauses, natural inflection, and in four different voices.
Additionally, the playback happens in an e-book fashion, complete with play/pause and skip buttons as well. You even get a rich media widget in your notifications that allows you to control playback from the lock screen or notification shade. And did I mention it also allows you to dictate the speed of playback, too? I like 1.3X speed in case you were wondering.
More Ways to Listen
The reason I bring up this new feature again is likely clear: we need info more than ever right now. Sure, it’s tough to sort the good stuff from the bad, panic from malaise, and fact from fiction. Be that as it may, we all need to be diligent in these times to try and distill factual, helpful info where we can.
Google News is doing a pretty good job of this and there’s a good chance that this story won’t get out to a ton of people organically because of the stringent filtering Google is doing right now on stories like this one. Going to the Google News app or the Discover app and reading through the latest updates is a good way of keeping up on all the latest, but as we’re all likely thrown out of normal rhythms, finding time to consume these longer articles that may be packed with info can be tough.
The good news is the new audio book-like feature of Google Assistant that only worked on the web now works with the Google News and Discover apps now, too. That’s right: you can click on a news article in either app, ask the Assistant to ‘read this page’, and let the audio start flowing. So, if you are in the middle of working from home, helping your kids with their studies at home, or simply doing some tasks around the house you’ve put off forever, you can be listening to news and updates as you do so.
While this is still not live on Chromebooks yet, I’d argue that the availability for news apps like Google News and Discover is honestly a bigger deal. Let’s face it, for the next few weeks we’re all going to be trying to wrap our collective heads around what is happening not only in our country, but on our planet as a whole. These are tough times and here in the US, the tougher times are coming for sure. Hopefully this new feature from Google Assistant can make some of this wild time a bit easier.