Google is holding its big I/O Developer conference this week, where it’s been debuting forthcoming new features, bells and whistles around its products. Google Assistant, the company’s virtual assistant, was no exception, getting a big bell that drew lots of whistles about its conversational capabilities, as well as some new smart home controls.
The Internet has been abuzz after the Google Duplex demo yesterday. Duplex uses artificial intelligence to hold convincing–yet limited–phone conversations on your behalf. CEO Sundar Pichai showed the Google Assistant making a phone call to a restaurant and placing a reservation, and what’s amazing is how human Google Assistant sounds, even inserting “umms” and “uhhs.”
Google Assistant engages with the person at the restaurant to not only select a time, but answer questions, and it even tries to find out what the wait times are on a Wednesday night. The best way to understand it is to watch this video:
Pichai said that Duplex was still in development, and didn’t give a release date for its integration into Assistant. And even though this type of interaction only works in restricted situations and under narrow parameters, my first thought was “How quickly can I throw away my Alexa?” While Amazon’s virtual assistant has trouble understanding the most basic questions in our house, Google’s Assistant will soon take over basic tasks like booking a restaurant for me.
And it looks like Google Assistant will be able to take on even more work around my house: the company announced nine new devices types that have native integration with the virtual assistant, including coffee makers, fridges and ovens. This means outside developers can embed Google Assistant controls directly into their products. As CNet explains, by working natively, you can ask Google to just “preheat the oven to 350 degrees,” instead of saying “Hey Google, ask LG to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.”
It’s obvious that Google sees big opportunities in its assistant, tying together many of its products (maps, calendar, etc.) in a truly useful fashion. This plus all the data the company hoovers up every day could allow them to more easily leapfrog over Alexa (and leave Apple further in the dust).