Google has just announced four "new" features for the Google Assistant, including some new Routine functionality, the ability to pay for takeout orders via a little Duplex magic, and a feature for lost iPhones. As usual, some of these are new-new, others are things Google's been silently testing for a while and which many of our readers may have already been using for some time.
I can spend a day listing all the missing features from Google Home and Assistant routines, but there's one that seems to be the most obvious and easy to implement: homescreen shortcuts. How simple would it be to tap a button on your phone to trigger your morning or bedtime routine, instead of talking to your phone or fumbling three levels deep in the Home app to find the option? Very simple. Still, it took more than thirty months after the launch of routines and these shortcuts are finally available... well, for some users at least.
Last November, the Google Home app received a colorful card-based media control interface, which was quite an improvement over the previous one. But multi-room or multi-speaker playback is rather tricky to set up through this card-based interface, and Google seems to think the same. The company has introduced a much more intuitive UI for media controls in version 2.31 of the Home app that lets you cast to individual or multiple speakers and displays on the fly. And Assistant Routines can finally be triggered through the app again following the update.
The Google Home app is core to how you control and interact with dozens of different devices, so it's understandably one of Google's most feature-packed applications. It only got more interesting with version 2.28, as the new update hinted at the rebranding of Android TV, as well as adding some new features surrounding routines and home presence-sensing that were teased earlier this year. Now it seems like the new Home/Away routines powered by presence sensing are available to most users.
Some people will have taken to working from home better than others as we all adjust to the new normal, but it's always good to have a little helping hand. If you're struggling to stay on schedule with your work, or could just do with the occasional moral support, this latest Google Assistant routine feature could be just what you need.
In July, Google announced that smart home appliance makers would be able to publish Assistant routines featuring their own Actions and ones recommended from partner brands. Amazon seems to be raising that move with its own: user-shareable Alexa routines.
With smart home appliances, you can weave a series of commands together and have them triggered just by flipping a switch or having a sensor detect motion. Smart assistants and task apps have long been able to cook up recipes or routines, but it takes two to tango — those partners being the appliance makers that need to be able to get their products synced up and ready for a command. TP-Link is the latest OEM to allow for synced or so-called "Smart Actions" on its Kasa lines of lightbulbs, switches, plugs, and cameras.
When Google decided to deprecate its Works with Nest API, there was a litany of questions left behind of what would happen. Some of those answers came when third parties started sending notices to Nest product owners saying that their apps and routines would not work with their cameras, thermostats, and other appliances past August 31 (or earlier). At the same time, as Nest account holders begrudgingly move their roots to a Google account, there are questions as to if all the Works with Nest integrations will be carried over. Google has come back today with answers.
One of the Google Assistant's more annoying habits is that it usually tells you what it's doing even though you can see what it's doing. "Turning off the living room light" — I know, Google, I just asked you to and I can see it go off with my own eyes. Although it's still happening for individual actions, it doesn't seem to happen during routines any longer.