Google’s Assistant is about to get a lot smarter, as the company is opening up its platform and allowing third party developers to connect to the service. Originally, the expanded functionality will only be available on Google Home devices, and then move on to the Pixel smartphones.
On Thursday, Google announced it was opening up its Assistant service, in an effort to bring in outside developers and make the platform more useful. By tying into the voice-controlled, digital assistant, developers can connect users directly to their services with specific voice commands.
The tools for developers are called “Conversation Actions”, and they can be used to connect directly to outside bots, and give users access to new functionality. For example, in the future saying something like “Ok Google, I want a pizza from Domino’s” could call up the company’s chatbot and let you order your pizza. Google’s head of the new development project, Jason Douglas, explained:
This is the ability to immediately, on the fly -- instead of loading a site -- engage a user in a conversation. We're trying to make it as seamless and natural for users to go direct to developers.
What may sound a bit worrying though, is that Google likens the process of claiming voice commands to that of purchasing web domains. This may limit functionality or disadvantage those developers who aren't quick enough to snap up natural commands..
Interestingly enough, Google explains that this is different than what Amazon’s Alexa assistant does, which can currently connect to about 5000 services outside of Amazon. Google views its own interaction as much more natural, without the user having to manually expand functionality like you would with Alexa. Instead, Google clearly envisions a future, albeit a long-term one, where the Assistant could act like a similarly to search engine and put you in contact with whatever you service you want.
There’s no exact timeframe for when the service will truly be useful and reach outside the confines of Google Home. That being said, the company has been trying to expand its feature set by tying into IFTTT and promising to further expand developer access and tools early next year.