Google I/O is inching closer, but Google is already on an announcement spree. After teasing some launcher improvements coming to tablets and giving us a first glimpse at its response to Apple's Privacy Labels, the company is now getting ready to share some Assistant updates. For one, Assistant Broadcasts can now reach family members even when they're not home, but there's much more than just that.
If you're not familiar, Assistant Broadcasts allow you to send a message to all of your Google Home and Nest devices by saying, "Hey Google, tell my family, let's have dinner at seven," or anything else. The big limitation was that you could only reach family members in the vicinity of your smart home speakers and displays, but Google is looking to change that. When you create a Google Family Group, messages you broadcast via the Assistant will now also pop up on your kids' and spouse's Android devices and iPhones (with the Google app installed), complete with (voice-only) reply options.
Basically, Google just accidentally created yet another messaging service.
Family Bell is a neat nagging feature that you can use to schedule regular reminders, great for assembling your family for dinner at the same time every day or if you need to remember to water your plants. Google writes that it'll soon be available in more regions: "Over the coming weeks, we’ll be expanding Family Bell to eight new languages, including French, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Hindi, and Korean."
Starting today, Google is also rolling out the option to have Family Bells ring across multiple smart home devices at a time — they're no longer limited to a single speaker or display.
New stories, games, and Easter eggs
Google is also taking the opportunity to bring new stories and games to Assistant-equipped devices. Thanks to a partnership with Pottermore Publishing, you'll be able to hear Harry Potter themed stories, which you can invoke by saying, "Hey Google, tell me a Quidditch story," for example. There's also the "Who Was?" series from Penguin Random House, giving you access to hundreds of stories about Ida B. Wells, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and more by saying, "Hey Google, talk to Who Was Heroes."
On the games side, you'll be able to play the popular games show 'Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?' by asking Google to talk to it.
Following the apparent success of the annoying handwashing song from back when the pandemic started, Google is introducing a few more songs that are supposed to help with chores. The company encourages you to try "Hey Google, Sing the clean up song," "Hey Google, Sing the go to sleep song," or "Hey Google, Sing the brush your teeth song" with your kids.
Google also teases that there will be an Easter egg when you set a timer on Mother's Day — you might want to set up an Assistant reminder for that.