At CES 2020, Google announced new features that will make Google Assistant more helpful to users throughout their day when they are at home, in the car or on their phone. Photo: Reuters
DURBAN – At CES 2020, Google announced new features that will make Google Assistant more helpful to users throughout their day when they are at home, in the car or on their phone. 

The helpful home 

When users set up their smart device through the manufacturer’s app, they will receive a notification on their Android phone or see a “suggestion button” when they open up the Google Home app that will prompt users to connect the device with their Assistant. Users will then be able to easily complete set-up in just a few taps without needing to re-enter their account credentials.

With a new feature called Scheduled Actions coming out later this year, users will be able to ask the Assistant to turn on/off or start/stop a compatible smart device at the time of your choosing. For example, users can say, “Hey Google, run the coffee maker at 6 a.m.” From within the Google Home app, users can control more than 20 new devices.

Advancing speech technology 

At CES, Google previewed a new experience that enables natural reading of long-form content. This experience is built on new voice datasets to create more expressive and more natural sounding voices, so it’s easier to listen for a longer period of time. There are many potential ways in which this can be helpful, but one area we’re exploring is reading webpages with long-form content on a phone. Users can just say “Hey Google, read it” or “Hey Google, read this page” when they are viewing an article. The content can be translated into 42 languages, such as Hindi, German or Spanish. Google is also looking to include auto-scroll and text highlighting capabilities that help users read the text as it’s being read aloud.

Interpreter mode is a real-time translation feature for phones, Smart Display or smart speaker that allows people to have free-flowing conversations with each other⁠—even if they don’t speak the same language. 

Designed for privacy

Google Assistant is built to keep information private, safe and secure. For instance, the Assistant is designed to wait in standby mode until it is activated, like when users say “Hey Google.” When it’s in standby mode, the Assistant won’t send what users are saying to Google or anyone else. Google does not retain audio recordings and users can decide if you’d like Google to keep their audio.  It’s easier than ever to use Google’s privacy controls with a little help from the Assistant by asking questions like “How do you keep my information private?” to get answers to the most common privacy and security questions. Users can delete Assistant activity from their Google Account by saying things like “Hey Google, delete everything I said to you this week.”

Google has added two new voice actions for people to easily control their privacy, such as “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you,” which lets you tell the Assistant to forget what it heard if an unintended activation occurs. Users can also ask “Hey Google, are you saving my audio data?” to learn about your privacy controls and go directly into the settings screen to change your preferences.

Coming to more TVs, cars, speakers and beyond

Google has updated Android TV to make it easier for TV manufacturers to build far-field mics into their TVs so it works like any other Assistant-enabled smart speaker. Whether a TV is turned off or people can’t find the remote, they can use the Assistant to access media and entertainment, get answers and control the TV with their voice. The Google Assistant will also be available on Samsung’s new voice-enabled Smart TVs launching in 2020. 

With the Google Assistant built into select cars with Android Automotive OS and all cars with Android Auto compatibility, users can make the most of their time in the car.  Late last year, Volvo Cars revealed its first electric car, the Volvo XC40 Recharge, would have a new infotainment system, powered by Android with the Google Assistant built in. BMW also recently announced wireless Android Auto support.