New features for Google Assistant announced at CES

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Google Assistant has consistently beat out its rival virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana in tests measuring how well each one understands tasks and questions asked of it. The digital helper is the hub of the Google ecosystem which is one of the reasons why fans of the latter prefer Android over iOS. Today at CES, Google announced new features aimed at the more than 500 million monthly Assistant users which will make it more helpful on the phone, in the car, or at home.

Google is making it easier to connect smart devices to Google Assistant through the use of a notification link that will appear on your phone or a suggestion button that shows up on the Google Home app. This saves you the time of having to type in all of the information related to your Google account. Later this year, Google will add a new feature called Scheduled Actions that will allow you to set a schedule for other compatible smart devices in the home. For example, you can tell the Assistant to start the coffee maker at 6 am so you can awaken to a steaming hot cup of java and get your caffeine fix when you need it the most. Google points out that 20 new devices have been added to the Google Home app to help you control "AC units, air purifiers, bathtubs, coffee makers, vacuums and more."

Did you ever sit back and wish that you were the genius who invented sticky notes? But they are quite a mess when you leave them up all around the house. Google is going to add a new feature that will create digital sticky notes for smart displays that support Google Assistant. All you need to do to leave a sticky note is say, "Hey Google, leave a note that says don't forget your dental appointment after school today." And if you have a smart speaker or smart display, another new feature will allow you to create a "speed dial" list that will make calls simply by saying "Hey Google, call Olaf."

Google also previewed today a new technology that allows Assistant to read long-form content on your phone. This would allow you to listen to news stories posted on websites just by saying "Hey Google, read it" or "Hey Google, read this page." Imagine being able to have PhoneArena read to you hands-free while you're driving in your car. The company says, "Unlike traditional screen readers, this experience is built on new voice datasets to create more expressive and more natural sounding voices, so it’s easier to listen for a longer period of time." The content can be translated into 42 different languages, and Google is working on a way for the website to highlight the portion of the text being read aloud by Google while automatically scrolling the page. This "Read It" feature will be available on Android phones running version 5.0 or higher by later this year.

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Another feature for phones, smart displays, and smart speakers will allow people to engage in conversations even if they don't speak the same language. Called interpreter mode, this is available starting today to guests of Google partners Volara and SONIFI. Both are in the hospitality business and Google is looking to bring interpreter mode to hotels, stadiums, arenas, human-rights based organizations and more.

Lastly, Google wanted to discuss privacy. The company says that while in standby, before being awoken by the "Hey Google" or "Ok Google" wake words, Assistant doesn't eavesdrop on you and send to Google the conversations that you are having. You can always ask the Assistant, "How do you keep my information private?" and, "Hey Google, are you saving my audio data?" You can also ask Google to delete everything you said this week that it recorded. And if you said something after accidentally activating Google Assistant, by saying "Hey Google, that wasn’t for you," the Assistant will instantly contact short-term amnesia and forget what you just said. By default, once your request has been processed by Google's server (although the Pixel 4 series does this on-device), the information is discarded by Google. You can choose to participate in Google's human-based review of Assistant, but that will allow Google to keep information heard through the virtual digital helper.

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