Google Assistant is likely to become as pervasive for general computer use as the company's search tool as it endeavours to embed its products and services into every aspect of our lives and work. Over the years, Google has launched and dropped numerous services, but the Google Assistant could become the glue that ties them all together.
As Google Assistant is now part of a number of different products, ranging from the Google Home Hub to third-party headphones and almost every Android and iOS device, it is likely to become the gateway we all depend on. Here's everything you need to know.
How To Access Google Assistant
There are several different ways to access Google Assistant depending on what device you're using it with.
If you're using a Google Home smart speaker, then simply saying "OK Google" will get things going. But some newer devices, like the new the Pixelbook and Pixel Slate, have dedicated hardware buttons - something we expect to see in the next generation of Chromebooks that we'll see in the coming months.
In some Google apps and services, you'll see a microphone icon. That can be used to not only verbally enter in search terms but to also ask Google to do things like check your schedule.
What Can Google Assistant Do?
Google Assistant puts a layer of speech recognition and machine learning over the top of Google's services and a number of third party data sources. For example, you can ask Google to conduct searches, just like when you type a query. Or you can ask it to tell what your next appointment is and how long it will take you to get there - assuming you're using Google Calendar. It can even tell the name of a song that's playing if you ask.
If you shoot lots of photos, you can ask Google to show just last week's pics or some other subset.
And, if you're travelling, it can provide some basic translations. However, full Google translate capability isn't here yet. For that, you'll need to jump into Google Translate.
It's not just about collecting information that's already available. Google Assistant can be used to set timers, activate Google-friendly smart home appliances such as switches, lights and door locks, as well as tell you the latest news headlines or even start a workout if you have a Google Fit-compatible tracker.
Home automation support boasts vendors such as Philips Hue, Lifx, TP-Link, Logitech Harmony, Neato and Honeywell with devices for doing all sorts of things around the house.
Google has been integrating lots of external data sources into Google Assistant. For example, you can ask Google for flights between to locations during a specific time or even get a weather report on Mars from the Rover that's wandering around and exploring the red planet's surface.
Closer to home, you can ask Google to play your favourite playlist from Spotify, read you a Bible verse or start a movie or TV show on Netflix.
The level of integration and intelligence offered through Google Assistant continually evolves. So, if you're trying to do something with it today that doesn't quite work, that could change pretty quickly.
What Does Google Assistant Cost?
Google Assistant is either a free app or already included in supported hardware. In other words, it's free as long as your gear supports it.