Google upgrades Assistant with real-time interpretation and more
Google Assistant, once again, is getting smarter. At the CES tech show in Las Vegas, Google has announced a slew of new features coming to the AI-driven digital assistant across smartphones, smart speakers, and smart home devices – including more real-time language translation.
That new interpreter feature is the most significant upgrade here. We've seen a similar sort of capability with the Pixel Buds earphones, but this looks more advanced. Essentially you can hold a conversation in front of a smart speaker or smart display of your choice and have Google Assistant translate everything into your chosen language.
It's called Interpreter Mode, and it's rolling out in the coming weeks for Google Home speakers and smart displays with Google Assistant on board. With a command like "Hey Google, be my French interpreter" you can have spoken French translated back into English almost instantly. Google says dozens of languages are supported at launch.
That's just the start though. Google Assistant is also becoming part of Google Maps in Android Auto (the driving mode available in car stereo units and on Android phones). You'll be able to use your voice and Assistant to share your ETA with friends and family, reply to texts, queue up music and podcasts, and more.
And following Amazon Alexa's lead, Google Assistant is coming to the car in dedicated devices like the Anker Roav Bolt (US$49.99) and the JBL Link Drive ($59.95). Plug these smart chargers into a spare power socket and they work with your car stereo (over Bluetooth or a cabled connection) to give you access to the Assistant, whether you want to play some tunes or get some driving directions.
On your phone, Google Assistant for Android and iOS is soon going to let you check into your flight with your voice (with United Airlines the first partner to sign up). New integrations with hotel booking sites and travel itinerary apps are coming too, so the Assistant will know more about your journey and be more helpful (in theory at least).
Google Assistant already works with more than 10,000 devices and more than 1,600 automation brands, Google says, and that list is going to grow too. The long-promised Google Assistant integration with the Sonos One and the Sonos Beam is about to go live, with many more hardware partnerships to follow, covering everything from TV sets to outdoor water leak sensors.
To encourage manufacturers to build Google Assistant into their products, Google is introducing a new Google Assistant Connect platform, making it easier to get the Assistant integrated into any type of device. One such device shown off at CES was a dinky Smart Clock from Lenovo. The 4-inch touchscreen device, launching soon for $79.99, is primarily designed to tell the time, but adds all the usual Google Assistant smarts on top too.
Google is clearly in a turf war with Amazon to get its smart assistant into as many devices and on as many platforms as possible, and the companies are continually outdoing each other with new integrations and partnerships. Indeed some devices, like the Sonos One, now have both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant on board.
The good news for users is that these smart assistants can be easily updated by Amazon and Google on the server side, which means a continual stream of new features and functions to play around with.