Google has been progressively enhancing its speech-related technologies for years, starting in the early days with mostly straightforward commands before aiming much higher with natural language processing and conversational back-and-forth interactions. At I/O 2018, a demonstration included the next stage of this evolution, which has been dubbed Continued Conversation. A beta update to the Google app began rolling out last night, and it's preparing to unveil this new feature.
The popularity of smart speakers may be increasing day by day, but there are still some people who believe the speakers are secretly recording and uploading every word that comes out of our mouths. You might have heard about a story involving Alexa on an Amazon Echo sending a private conversation to a random person on a contact list today, spooking more than a few people. Amazon has come out with a statement to Engadget explaining why this occurred.
At I/O today, Google announced that Assistant on Google Home will soon be able to hold a conversation and respond to multiple requests without a user having to repeat "Okay Google" each time. The feature is similar to 'Follow-up mode' on Alexa, which became available a couple of months ago.
Google launched a new experience today that it's calling Talk to Books. It's pretty much what it sounds like: the demo asks for input in the form of regular old sentences, then tries to locate logical responses to those sentences from a pool of books. In a post on its Developer Blog, Google calls Talk to Books "an entirely new way to explore books by starting at the sentence level, rather than the author or topic level."
You've probably asked Google Now, Siri, or Cortana to tell you a joke or to direct you to a destination, but this video takes the idea of conferring with voice assistants to another level - not necessarily a higher level, mind you, but at the very least, a funnier one.
Today's announcements by Google have certainly given us a lot to look at in terms of new hardware and features – and possibly a case of sticker shock. But while the show was mostly dominated by new gadgets and demos of Google assistant, there was a really important addition for developers (and ultimately users) at the tail end of the event. Google intends to turn assistant into a major ecosystem for apps and services by opening up the platform to developers.
The platform is called "Actions on Google" and it will allow developers to deliver custom experiences through Google assistant. Google assistant can already take advantage of many existing capabilities like app indexing, deep linking, and even the Voice Interaction API to provide helpful answers and services.
We're not sure when this behavior changed in WhatsApp — I was able to track it down as far back as version 2.12.134 but it might have been there before — but it's worth pointing out nonetheless, if only for its boost in convenience. It used to be that whenever you wanted to look for specific words in your WhatsApp chats, you first had to select the conversation where that word occurred and then perform the search. That was useful, but only to a limited extent, because if you were looking for that restaurant recommendation from a few months ago, you might have forgotten which friend mentioned it to you.
Besides fixing Google Experience Launcher on tablets and adding some new cards, the new Google Search update has another trick up its sleeve - it will now hold a conversation with you to perform certain functions, and talks to you in a new way.
Basically, you can now start with very general voice commands like "send a message." The microphone will then turn into a white speaker on a blue circle, indicating that Search is responding to you. It will ask "Who do you want to send the message to?" Then it's your turn. Say a name, and Search will ask what the message should say.
Vocre, a voice and text translator that won audience choice in TechCrunch's Disrupt, came to Android today, bringing with it a promising challenger to Google's own Translate app and a "tabletop UI" meant specifically for extended conversations with those on either side of the language barrier.
As shown in the video above, Vocre's interface is exceedingly simple. Users need only select languages and genders, then record their message, check for accuracy, and let the app do the rest. Vocre, for those curious, uses Nuance services to translate your words as a text string, returning results (with pretty reliable accuracy) in the desired language.