With Google I/O falling victim to a global pandemic this year, a whole round of developments on Google Assistant has gone unannounced. But the company has made up for that opportunity with a presentation at the Voice Global 2020 virtual summit, revealing new tools for developers and new expectations for consumers when they interact with smart displays and speakers going forward.

The first few items are bound to change the way developers experience coding for Actions.

  • Actions Builder is a web-based IDE within the Actions Console that provides visual workflow of the conversation tree for their actions and lets them author Natural Language Understanding data as well as debug items right on the branch.
  • Those who work in their own command line IDE will be able to use the Actions SDK to inspect their Actions as a directory of files. This also allows writers to import and export NLU training data in bulk.
  • Add a few runtime engine improvements plus a new conversation model and they pave the way for both Actions Builder and the Actions SDK to replace Google's original DialogFlow development platform (formerly API.AI).

When it comes to the twists that will directly affect how users experience the Assistant on their devices, most of these will be memory boosters for the sake of continuity.

  • Home Storage is a way for Actions Developers to store personal data for multiple users on a single device, allowing an Action or app to remember each individual's progress or context and then draw them up as prompted. In short, the Assistant will recall that Alice is on level 6 of a puzzle game while Bob is on level 2.
  • The Media APIs have been updated to allow for multi-device playtime continuity — this means if someone stops consuming a podcast on a speaker midway through, they can continue from that point on a display.
  • In the coming months, programmers will be able to implement Continuous Match Mode to allow an Action to keep the device's microphone on until it hears a certain word or phrase. A prime example of CMM's use would be with the upcoming Pictionary-like "Guess The Drawing" from CoolGames.
  • Last, but not least, Accelerated Mobile Pages are coming to smart displays via Google News this summer. Web devs who already have an AMP product up or don't, be on the lookout for further announcements.

There's no official word about any further expansion of Duplex automated calls, just the metric that it has been able to update the listings of over 500,000 business worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, we hope to see more coming out of that realm as with all the others in AI land soon.