"Okay, Google... what's new with Google Assistant this year?"
"*Ding ding* I'm glad you asked. New features for Google Assistant were just announced at CES 2020. Let me walk you through the new changes....."
Alright, so maybe it doesn't sound exactly like that but if you've used any of the voice assistants (be it Google, Siri, or Alexa), you'll know that they all do the same thing: does the work and finds the answer to your questions.
If you follow along with the timeline below [provided by voicebot.ai], you'll see that Apple introduced Siri in April 2011 (I was never an iPhone guy, but I remember when everyone had to have an iPhone specifically for the ability to converse with Siri). She truly was a worldwide phenomenon! For what seemed like the first time ever, the voice assistant on your phone actually carried a conversation with you. Voice assistants have been around for a couple of years before Siri, but when Siri talked back with and could continue the conversation... boy, look out!
Yes, Siri was a huge deal when she was first introduced in 2011... but that's for another day [and another article]. We are here to talk about another voice assistant: Google Assistant! Again, if you follow the timeline above, Google Now was launched in July 2012. Google Now was a feature of the Google Search ability that proactively delivered information to the user in the form of informational cards. Google Now was essentially Google's response to Apple's Siri feature. Although Google Now wasn't as 'vocal' as Siri, we had an AI race on our hands (even though IBM had created Watson and even won a tournament on Jeopardy!)
With the AI race in full bloom, Amazon launches Alexa and the Echo in November 2014, Microsoft launches Cortana in January 2015... and Google launches Google Assistant in May 2016. There have been other voice assistant apps and devices on the market, but there is no doubt that the general public has at least one of assistants above.
"CES is the world's gathering place for all those who thrive on the business of consumer technologies. It has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for 50 years — the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace. Owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, it attracts the world's business leaders and pioneering thinkers."
In a nutshell, CES is where the tech world goes to tell the rest of the world what is happening in the tech world. CES 2020 ran from January 6-9 in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada! But although the annual conference has already passed, vendors and consumers alike are still buzzing about all of the announcements. One of the most talked about topics from this year's conference was all of the updates to Google Assistant. Since its inception in 2016, Google Assistant has been growing and evolving.
Currently, Google Assistant can't brew your coffee or make your toast for you, but with the Scheduled Actions feature, you will be able to have Google Assistant help you with that. Wouldn't it be nice to set an action with your smart device to brew your coffee or make your toast and have it all ready for you before you even crawl out of bed in the morning. If you're anything like me [or the rest of the world], you sleep in until the very last minute and don't give yourself enough time to make a coffee or have toast or a bagel before rushing out the door because you "need to beat traffic" (which you never do anyway). I have seen appliances that have a feature to allow you to program brew times or operating times, but with Google Assistant, all of your appliances can be on the same timer and can be controlled from one central spot.
Speaking of appliances, many more companies have signed on with Google to allow their devices to be Google Assistant-enabled. Imagine that: controlling lights, doors (or their locks), perhaps windows (and their locks), the aforementioned coffee maker, smart fridges, smart TV's... what's next, "Hey Google, turn on my car engine and start the seat warmer for me."? You know, I wouldn't be surprised if you can already do that.... I guess I'll have to Google it later.....
One of the coolest features announced for Google Assistant is the ability to read full web pages back to you, known as Read It. Google Assistant can already be set up to read back texts but full pages (or what's called long-form content) aren't possible... yet. Imagine being able to ask Google to read an article about how to work more effectively and efficiently you pulled up. "Hey Google, read this web page." Imagine being able to multitask even more effectively. Imagine having Google Assistant read you this article about the features of Google Assistant!!!
Living in an ever-growing digital world, nothing is more important than one's privacy. A lot of tech companies have gotten into deep trouble for not protecting user privacy. With everyone having some kind of presence online, protection of privacy is a growing concern. Google Assistant wants its users to know that it doesn't breach of privacy lightly. I've often heard horror stories about other voice assistants that are "secretly" recording conversations or interjecting into conversations even though it was prompted. Sometimes the voice assistant will think it's being prompted by something someone said accidentally. In case you missed it, people don't like being recorded or having A.I. respond when it wasn't prompted (that's how the robots take over: once they become self-aware).
With Google Assistant, if you ever feel like it's recording or searching for an answer or basically doing anything it's not supposed to be doing, you can simply say, "Hey Google, that wasn't meant for you." and it'll delete the last "prompt" from your history. From what I've seen and heard about other voice assistants, there are extra steps you have to take in order to delete search and/or conversation history. Google Assistant will make deleting user history a lot easier with a voice command.
A few other features were announced at CES 2020 regarding the new and improved Google Assistant. The ones listed above were some of the coolest features or at least were some of the ones I was most excited about. Check out Tech Radar (by clicking [here]) and CNet (by clicking [here]) for more information about what the new Google Assistant can do; they both do a great job of outlining some of the new features.
2020 looks like it's going to be one hell of a year for tech companies and the new technologies that are getting ready to hit the market. I, for one, can't wait to see all the new changes. Stay tuned as we'll try to keep you up to date on all the latest news and releases.