Google I/O 2018 has been a dizzying array of new software and services shown off by Google. From Linux apps on Chromebooks to the human-like Duplex to great new features coming in Android P, Google has brought it this year for the search giant’s annual developer conference.
One of the staples of the main keynote on Tuesday was, unsurprisingly, Google Assistant and Google Home. During the keynote, Google teased some of the upcoming features coming to Google Home, and as of today, some of those features are already showing up.
On stage, Sundar Pichai went into some good detail about Google’s tech that makes the Google Assistant have such a lifelike voice. Dubbed WaveNet, Google’s voice training technology is pretty astounding. You can watch it in action in the video below, but the idea is the voice actor reads TONS of examples that are then fed into Google’s algorithms to produce a lifelike, artificial voice.
The voices are continually getting better, adding inflections and pauses to create a more human-sounding result. Though we’re not yet seeing the John Legend voice demoed on stage (promised later this year), the 6 new voices promised on stage just a few days ago are already making their way to Google Home devices.
I actually was able to check these out this morning, and could have assigned a new voice if I so chose. I ended up staying with the standard voice, but options are nice! If you want to see if your Google Home app has received the new choices, just open the app, hit the hamburger menu, More settings, Preferences, Assitant Voice and then you can listen through the options.
It is great to see the new options, but even cooler to see Google roll out a new feature so quickly.
Continued Conversations & Multiple Actions
This is arguably the best new feature announced. We’re not seeing it live just yet, but most of the new features are expected in a few weeks. Continued conversations give Google Assistant the ability to continue listening for 8 seconds after a command for, well, continuing the conversation. So, for instance, if you ask Google who the Cubs are playing today, after it answers you, you could then ask who’s pitching. Without skipping a beat, Google could then answer that question within the context of the Cubs. A simple “What’s their record?” would also yield results of the Cubs record.
All this could be done without continually saying “OK Google” over and over. To be honest, that is the reason I don’t continue to probe when I’ve asked a question. I hate constantly saying “Hey Google” over and over. For me, this will be one of the best new features in a long time for Google Home/Assistant users.
Multiple Actions sort of play into this as well. What this will allow is users to lump in multiple questions as one. For instance, if we continue with the baseball queries, you could ask “What time do the Cubs play today and who is pitching?” With that one action, Google would know how to parse up the question and give you the relevant answers.
Combining these two new features, conversations with the Google Assistant are getting ready to get much simpler and natural.
If the last features were the most functional, this feature is the most adorable. Pretty Please is simple and will be effective at helping ease parental concerns around their kids being a bit too commanding when asking for things from the Google Assistant. From the looks of it, once enabled, you’ll need to append a please to the end of your commands to get Google Assistant to comply. Afterward, you’ll be met with encouragements like “Thanks for being so polite” for reinforcement. Granted, if you feel this is too overbearing, simply keep it turned off.
I know for my little ones, I’m constantly reminding them to ask for things nicely, so the added reinforcement will be very welcome!
With all these new features rolling out soon, Google Home and Google Assistant continue the march forward as a more usable, more reliable, more functional personal assistant. I may not be quite ready for the whole Google Duplex thing, but all these changes are things I can’t wait for!