Google has announced an update to Google Assistant that adds a tonne of new features – all designed to make the voice assistant more helpful "throughout your day when you’re at home, in the car, or on your phone". Here is what's new.

What's new with Google Assistant?

On the software side of things, Google Assistant has a bunch of new tricks…

Create digital sticky notes

Later this year, Google Assistant will help your family stay organised, thanks to Household Notes. These are digital sticky notes that work with Assistant smart displays. Anyone at your house can create or view these notes. For instance, before work, you could create a note to tell your son to take the chicken out of the freezer. Simply say, “Hey Google, leave a note that says to take the chicken out.”

Speed dial your contacts

Also, coming later this year, Google Assistant will launch a "speed dial" feature so that anyone in your household can easily make calls with your Google Assistant speakers and smart displays. Once it's set up, you'll be able to call your grandma by saying, "Hey Google, call Nana."

Turn off devices with Scheduled Actions

Google Assistant is offering more control over your smart devices, via Scheduled Actions, coming later this year. Google said you'll be able to ask Assistant to turn on or off a smart device at a specific time. For instance, you can say, “Hey Google, turn on the kettle at 8am.” The Google Home app will let you control up to 20 new devices, from AC units to vacuums, all from one hub.

Quickly connect smart devices to Assistant

Google Assistant is about to get quicker at helping you set up a smart home. When you get a smart device and start using the manufacturer’s app, Google said you'd receive a notification on your Android phone – or you may see a suggestion button when you open the Google Home app – prompting you to connect the device with your Google Assistant. With just a few taps, you'll be set.

Natural-sounding Assistant for long articles

At CES 2020, Google showed how Google Assistant is more natural at reading long content. It used new voice datasets to create "more expressive and more natural sounding voices, so it’s easier to listen for a longer period of time". To test this experience, from your Android, say “Hey Google, read it” or “Hey Google, read this page” when you’re viewing an article. It can even translate.

Google also wants to add auto-scroll and text highlighting features so that users can read the text on their phone as it’s read aloud.

Interpreter mode expands to businesses

Google Assistant's Interpreter mode, which you can read more about from here, is a real-time translation feature for your phone and Google Assistant devices. Now, businesses can offer Interpreter mode to their own customers as part of an effort to expand the tech to hotels, airports, sports stadiums, humanitarian organisations, etc. It's currently unclear how this will work, however.

Here's a list of partners: JFK Airport; American Airlines Admirals Club at Los Angeles International Airport; Airport Dimensions; Supreme Committee and Ooredoo at Khalifa Stadium in Qatar; Mercy Corps; HSBC; Delaware North; Caesars Entertainment properties; Best Western Hotels in San Francisco and Los Angeles; Shibuya Stream Excel Hotel in Japan; W Doha Hotel in Qatar.

Better control over your privacy and recordings

Google Assistant is designed to wait in standby mode until you say “Hey Google.” Now, by default, Google said it doesn’t retain your audio recordings. But you can decide if you’d like Google to keep your audio to help improve its products. You can also ask Google Assistant for help:

  • You can say, “Hey Google, delete everything I said to you this week.”
  • You can also say, “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you."
  • You can even ask, “Hey Google, are you saving my audio data?”

Is that it?

Nope! Beyond software, Google has some Google Assistant hardware news…

New Google Assistant devices

Google Assistant is coming to new smart displays, speakers, headphones, and soundbars from the following brands: Acer, Aftershokz, Anker Innovations, Belkin, Cleer, Harman Kardon, Konka, JBL, Lenovo, Philips, Seiki, and LG.

Also this year, Google said you’ll find more smart devices that work with the Assistant, such as: August Smart Locks, Philips Hue HDMI Sync Box, Telus Wi-Fi Hub routers, GE Appliances Ultrafresh Front Load Washer, MOEN shower, D-Link Outdoor Wi-Fi Spotlight camera, VIAROOM Smart, Somfy TaHoma Hub, Yeelight Staria Bedside Lamp Pro, and MerossSmart’s garage door opener.

New Android TVs with Google Assistant

Google updated Android TV to make it easier for TV manufacturers to add far-field mics to their TVs⁠ – starting with the latest models from Hisense and TCL in the US. That means those sets will work as a Google Assistant-enabled smart speaker. You can use Assistant to access media, get answers, and control the TV with your voice. Assistant is coming to Samsung’s new Smart TVs in 2020, too.

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