In the voice assistant market, the most meaningful features often don't sound that impressive: more often than not, people use Google Assistant to do things like set timers and entertain the kids by playing fart sounds. It's not too sophisticated yet, but gradually we're heading toward the all-knowing AI of our dreams (and/or nightmares) — all it takes is consistent feature releases. Google is announcing a slew of those for US users today, including the integration of Google Assistant routines into the Android Clock app, the ability to put your device into Do Not Disturb mode via smart speaker, and more.
The addition of dedicated in-app routines to the Clock app makes a lot of sense — shutting off an alarm is the way most Android users start their day, so why not kick off a morning routine through Google Assistant that turns on your lights and begins relaying the day's news? The new feature, when it rolls out, will be a perfect match of functionalities, and a great example of how Google can use its broad Android ecosystem to powerful advantage.
Similarly, Google Assistant users will soon be able to switch all supported devices to Do Not Disturb mode with a single command: "Hey Google, silence my phone." Google didn't give a specific date for when to expect this feature on phones and smart speakers, stating only that it's "coming soon."
Turning to Broadcast, Google Assistant's best feature for spooking your roommates and/or family, Google is adding reply functionality in the coming weeks. That means you can broadcast a message back to your smart speaker or smart display at home, and the person on the other side can reply back. That reply will then pop up as a transcribed message, and you can continue to volley messages back and forth. Why not just message each other in a chat app? First, that would be too easy. Second, this could be a good feature for kids, or anyone who doesn't have access to a wireless device.
Google also added several kid-friendly features in time for the winter holidays. Those include:
- You can now adjust playback speed of podcasts or audiobooks by saying "Hey Google, play at twice the speed," or "play faster."
- New themed alarms for kids with voices from franchises like LEGO Friends and Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
- New Assistant Read Along book about trailblazing women in STEM called Ara the Star Engineer, to listen say: "Hey Google, read along with Ara."
- 25 new Google Assistant stories for kids including PAW Patrol's "The Pups Save the Bunnies," and Dora the Explorer's "Dora's Super Sleepover."
- More engaging responses to questions about things like dinosaurs, superheroes, and outer space — as long as kids are signed into devices like the Google Home via Family Link.
Lastly, for podcast listeners who don't have all day, you can now adjust playback speed of podcasts or audiobooks by saying "Hey Google, play at twice the speed," or just: "play faster." We highly recommend this for the Android Police podcast. The latest tech news is just that much more charming when it's being reviewed by a panel of chipmunks.
That sums up all the major additions to Google Assistant generally, but note that Google also added recipe recommendations and personal cookbooks to Smart Displays to round out the barrage of updates. Your move, Amazon.
Assistant Routine integration is now live. Additionally, our original coverage and Google's announcement said that the Assistant Routines were rolling out "today" meaning the 14th, though Google later edited its announcement to refine that the feature was, in fact, rolling out "later this week." Our coverage has been updated.