Google announces sticky notes, webpage reading, and more for Assistant

With CES 2020 getting underway today, Google has announced a bunch of new features coming to its digital helper, Assistant. The additions are particularly aimed at making Assistant more user-friendly while maintaining its practical nature.

In December, Google began rolling out the new Interpreter mode that works as a real-time translation feature for devices. This was initially brought to Android and iOS devices, with plans of compatibility to be introduced with Smart Displays and smart speakers sometime later. Now, the firm has unveiled that its Interpreter for Assistant will also be expanded to hotels, airports, stadiums, and the like as well. This expansion comes as a product of Google's new partnership with systems integrators Volara and SONIFI.

Moving on, a Scheduled Actions feature is being introduced to improve Assistant's support with compatible smart devices. Essentially, this enables users to start such devices, or stop them from running, at a specific time of their choosing. With this announcement, Google has also assured customers that support for more smart devices, such as August Smart Locks, Philips Hue HDMI Sync Box, and more will also be arriving in 2020. Scheduled Actions will be coming this year, though a specific timeframe has not been unveiled at this time.

With regards to helping Assistant create a more unified experience for families, sticky notes that can be created and displayed in one central location on Smart Displays are being brought later this year as well. Notably, family members other than the creator will be able to view the posted digital notes without having to sign in. Along with this, important contacts will also be importable to household contacts, making it easy for any family member to utilize quick dialing through Smart Displays.

Google is also looking to improve its usage of speech technology through Assistant, and to advance this purpose, it has announced a new Read It feature. This will enable Assistant to read out webpages upon user request. Although screen reading certainly isn't anything new, the advancement the Mountain View giant has aimed to make in this regard is to make the reading voice sound more "expressive" and "natural-sounding". The feature will allow for translation into 42 languages for the targeted content. Auto-scrolling and text-highlighting capabilities to accompany this experience are planned to be introduced at some point as well.

A couple of new privacy controls for Assistant have been revealed as well. The first of these is a rather interesting "Hey Google, that wasn't for you," command to disallow the storing of any perceived communication with Assistant in case of its accidental activation. The other new privacy command is "Hey Google, are you saving my audio data?", which is a way for users to find out more about how private their conversations with Assistant are, as well as to make changes to their privacy settings by visiting the relevant screen directly.

Lastly, Google plans to bring Assistant support to plenty more devices this year, including Samsung's upcoming voice-powered smart TVs, cars with Android Auto compatibility, and more. To make it easier for TV companies to incorporate far-field mics with their devices, Android TV has been updated as well. As stated by the firm, this is just a "first peek" at all the changes that will be coming this year.

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