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Google Assistant


Google Assistant can read your screen and offer contextual info, just make sure you want it to

Google Assistant does a lot of things. This invisible artificial intelligence residing (partly) inside our devices can answer all kinds of questions, control our homes, help us plan our day, play our favorite music, and, with the addition of features like What's on my screen and Google Lens, glean more from what we're looking at and provide contextual answers. What you may not be aware of, and something I recently discovered (though it isn't very new), is that Assistant can read your screen even when you don't explicitly ask it what's on your screen. That has the potential to be very handy, but also extremely creepy if you didn't know it was possible.

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My home never smelled nicer, but Moodo is still a luxury smart fragrance diffuser

Just like sound and light, your environment's scent is essential in making you feel relaxed, happy, or excited. That's why there are entire industries built around making your home smell nice. Sprays, candles, gels, battery-powered air fresheners, aromatherapy scent diffusers, you name it, there are thousands of choices for it. But smart, or to be more pedantic, connected fragrance diffusers are a new market altogether. Until recently, the options were limited — Aera, Marie by Elica — but other brands are coming into the picture now. Moodo is one of them. It promises to let you "DJ" the aroma, mixing various fragrances in any way and proportion you want.

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Google's Discover feed is becoming bilingual for more users

Google is embracing languages lately. Not only is the Assistant bilingual in dozens of language combinations now, but support for more dialects and variants is spreading through several of the company's apps and services. And that's the case with Discover (aka Google Feed). Bilingual support was mentioned when Discover launched, but only for English and Spanish in the US — although it was already working for English and Hindi in India. Based on tips and evidence we've seen over the past weeks, that support has expanded and is reaching more language combinations.

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Most Android TV devices should now be controllable by Google Home

Owners of Android TV boxes and sets have been asking one question ever since Google Home and Assistant launched: why can't I control my device with voice commands from my smart speakers? It works for Chromecast, so why wouldn't Android TV be supported? Worse yet, some things half-worked, like turning the TV on/off, and asking for YouTube videos or photos from your personal collection. But more intricate controls like volume, playing videos from other sources, pausing, or turning on subtitles, weren't possible. Now, they should be.

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Continued Conversation on Google Home works in UK English (and possibly more)

Continued Conversation lets you reply to Assistant after it answers you, without having to repeat "OK Google" every time. For instance, after asking it for the weather, you can respond to your smart speaker with another command such as "How about tomorrow?" Until recently, the feature only supported US English, but the company has now made it available to all English users.

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Google Assistant can natively control smart blinds

Technically speaking, Google Assistant has had native support for smart blinds and shades for a while now, but it was limited. Some brands, like Lutron Caseta and NeoSmartBlinds have had it implemented, showing you a special icon in the Home app and letting you immediately ask Google to lower the blinds or open them. But for most developers and smart home makers, the APIs weren't documented. Now they are.

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Google Assistant is now bilingual in more languages

Back in August, Google added bilingual support to Assistant, giving users the ability to address it in two different languages without fiddling with settings. As I live in Paris, I'm a big fan of this feature: I mostly speak to my Assistant in English, but I find it much easier to use French when mentioning an address for example. Also, when I have guests over, they can easily interact with my smart speaker in their native tongue, rather than having to speak in English. Initially, Google introduced support for six languages and gradually added many more. The company is now expanding this list to incorporate new ones, including regional dialects.

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Google Assistant phone calls are spreading to more third-party speakers

Feature parity is a huge point of contention in Android, and now in Google Assistant speakers too. Whenever Google announces a new ability for its Home line-up, you can toss a coin and it's pretty much 50-50 whether this will work on Assistant speakers from other brands. For phone calls, the situation has been more dire. Even though Google Home users could make a voice call starting August 2017 (in the US first), those with third-party speakers didn't have that option. But things are getting better.

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[Update: Deal available again] Grab a 2-pack Aukey smart socket or a dual outlet smart plug for ~$20

Earlier this week we were telling you how you could save money on new smart plugs thanks to Amazon's markdown. Although this was an interesting deal, many Assistant users felt let down as they were only compatible with Alexa. Well, we've got some comforting news for you: With these promotional codes, you can grab a pair of Aukey WiFi Smart Plugs for just $20 or a dual outlet plug for $19, respectively $8 and $6 off their original prices.

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YouTube Music comes to Google Home in many more countries (Europe, Japan, Canada)

As the story goes, Google isn't particularly good at making its own services and apps work together. Take YouTube Music for example. It took months for the streaming service to be available on Android Auto and as an alarm provider in the Clock app, and it still isn't integrated in Google Maps the way Spotify and Play Music are. But things are ever-so-slowly improving. You can (now) pick YouTube Music to be your music provider on Google Assistant and Home speakers in many, many more countries.

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