Google Assistant gets new features for the holidays

Just like that, the holidays are upon us, and Google is trying to make things easier this year with a few new features for its Google Assistant. In a blog post, the firm detailed a few new capabilities for the digital assistant and Google Home which aim to help you enjoy this season.

For starters, Pretty Please is now rolling out. Announced back at I/O 2018, the feature is meant to encourage politeness, especially among children. When you or your children talk to Google using words such as "please" and "thank you", the Assistant will now reward you with its own kind words, thanking you for being nice to it.

Next is the ability to create and manage your gift lists with your voice. The feature is built directly into Google Assistant, but Google is planning support for Google Keep, Any.do, Bring! and Todoist. Notably absent is Microsoft's own To-Do offering, which shouldn't be much of a surprise. You can also call Santa, who is apparently looking for songs to sing at a musical concert. If you have a Smart Display, you can even see some of the album covers Google has come up with.

Still related to the holidays, there are a couple of other features to help you spend time with your family. Google Play Music now supports karaoke for select songs if you have a Smart Display. The service will bring up lyrics for a song as it's playing so you can sing along. Google Assistant can also read along with your Christmas stories by adding sound effects and music while you're reading to your children. It can also read stories on its own, a feature which now supports over 50 books.

If you use Nest video doorbells, you'll also find a new feature now rolling out to Smart Displays. When someone is at your door, you can not only see the person in real time, but you can communicate back and forth with the visitor before letting them in.

Lastly, there are a few new features coming to Smart Displays. For example, when you're out shopping, you can broadcast a message to the smart devices at home asking if anything else is needed, and starting next week, those at home can reply using their voice. Smart Displays also now make it easier to share photos as they're displayed on the screen, and you can also hide them or add them to your favorites. Lastly, you can now use touch instead of voice to set an alarm.

Google recently started rolling out Duplex to some Pixel users, but availability for that feature is still very limited. These holiday-focused changes might be more useful in day-to-day life for the majority of users.

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