Google Assistant Will Soon Let You Assign Reminders for Friends and Family

Google Assistant is about to gain a new reminder feature that allows you to get someone else to do your bidding.


Called Assignable Reminders, the feature lets you set reminders for other people, so long as they are in your Google Contacts or opted in to your Family Group.

You can create a reminder using your voice ("Hey Google") or text, and set it to be delivered to a phone or via a smart device at a certain time, or make it geo-location aware so it shows up when the person arrives at a particular place, like the home or office.

According to Google, Assignable Reminders can be set to repeat, and you'll be able to check a history of reminders you sent to other people and any that have been assigned to you.

For children under 13 to use assignable reminders, they must be granted access to the Assistant on Google Home by adults in the household, and all users can block someone from sending them Assignable Reminders.

Assignable Reminders will roll out over the next few weeks in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia. The feature will work on Google's smart speakers, Android devices, and iPhones and iPads with the Google Assistant app installed.

Google's Assistant app is a free download for iOS, available on the App Store. [Direct Link]


This article, "Google Assistant Will Soon Let You Assign Reminders for Friends and Family" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Food Ordering Features Now Available in Google’s Mobile Apps

Google has incorporated food ordering features into its mobile apps, allowing iOS and Android users to order food directly from a range of companies without having to install an additional app or visit a website.


The functionality is available across U.S. cities in Google Search, Google Maps, and Google Assistant apps, and works through partnerships with existing delivery companies including DoorDash, Postmates, Delivery, Slice, and ChowNow.

In Google Search and Google Maps, there's a new "Order Online" button that appears when users search for a supported restaurant. Pressing the button lets you choose between pickup and delivery, and then select available food from the menu.

The feature works similarly in Google Assistant, which also supports reordering past selections. Users ask Google to order food from a specific restaurant, then they can choose a delivery service before selecting and paying for their order, all through the Google interface.

In addition to the partnerships mentioned above, Google plans to add support for Suppler and others in the future. As The Verge notes, major delivery services like Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Grubhub, and Just Eat are currently not supported.


This article, "Food Ordering Features Now Available in Google's Mobile Apps" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Google Brings Free Ad-Supported YouTube Music Streaming to Google Assistant Speakers

In lockstep with Amazon, Google has announced a free, ad-supported music streaming option for use with smart speakers that feature its voice-activated assistant.

The new "free" streaming tier means owners of Google Home or other Google Assistant-powered speakers can listen to tracks from the YouTube Music catalog, albeit interspersed with ads.

Listening to music on your Google Home speaker right out-of-the-box seems too good to be true, right? It’s not! Starting today, YouTube Music is offering a free, ad-supported experience on Google Home speakers (or other Google Assistant-powered speakers).
Free, ad-supported YouTube Music is available on smart speakers in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Japan, Netherlands, and Austria. Google says it will be available in more countries soon.

Note that the ad-supported streaming tier isn't supported on computers or phones. On that note, Google appears to be using the free offering to entice people to upgrade to YouTube Music Premium ($9.99/month), which enables listening on both supporting smart speakers and the YouTube Music mobile app, which also lets users background play music while using other apps and download tracks for offline listening.

Amazon on Thursday also announced the debut of a free music option for Amazon Alexa users in the United States alongside its Prime music service, which provides access to more than two million songs, and Amazon Music Unlimited, Amazon's on-demand music service priced starting at $9.99 per month ($7.99 for Prime members).


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Google Assistant Coming to Google Maps for iOS Today

Google is adding its Google Assistant feature to the Google Maps apps for iOS and Android, Google announced today.

The feature will be available on iPhones starting this afternoon, with Google planning to enable Assistant for Google Maps via an update that's rolling out "shortly."

On iOS and Android devices, Google Assistant will allow Google Maps users to control their navigation, reply to texts, and control music. On Android, it is also able to send messages through various messaging apps, a feature not available on iOS.

It can also do things like calculate your ETA so you can let friends and family know when you're set to arrive.

Google Assistant is already available on iOS devices through the dedicated Google Assistant app, but adding it into Maps makes it more readily accessible for the millions of people who already use the Google Maps app.


This article, "Google Assistant Coming to Google Maps for iOS Today" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Siri on HomePod Asked 800 Questions and Answered 74% Correctly vs. Just 52% Earlier This Year

Apple analyst Gene Munster of Loup Ventures recently tested the accuracy of digital assistants on four smart speakers by asking Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana a series of 800 questions each on the Amazon Echo, HomePod, Google Home Mini, and Harmon Kardon Invoke respectively.


The results indicate that Siri on the HomePod correctly answered 74.6 percent of the questions, a dramatic improvement over the speaker's 52.3 percent success rate when Loup Ventures asked it a similar 782 questions in December 2017.


Siri on the HomePod remained less accurate than Google Assistant on the Google Home, which correctly answered 87.9 percent of questions in the test. Meanwhile, Alexa on the Echo and Cortana on the Invoke trailed Siri on the HomePod, correctly answering 72.5 percent and 63.4 percent of questions in the test.


Munster attributed the HomePod's improved accuracy to "the enabling of more domains in the past year," as a series of software updates in recent months have enabled the speaker to make and receive phone calls, schedule calendar events, set multiple timers, search for songs by lyrics, and more.

Methodology


Loup Ventures says it asked each smart speaker the same 800 questions, and they were graded on two metrics: whether the query was understood and whether a correct response was provided. The question set was designed to "comprehensively test a smart speaker's ability and utility" based on five categories:
  • Local – Where is the nearest coffee shop?
  • Commerce – Can you order me more paper towels?
  • Navigation – How do I get to uptown on the bus?
  • Information – Who do the Twins play tonight?
  • Command – Remind me to call Steve at 2 p.m. today.
The venture capital firm said it continues to modify its question set in order to reflect the changing abilities of digital assistants. "As voice computing becomes more versatile and assistants become more capable, we will continue to alter our test so that it remains exhaustive," said Munster.

Results by Category



Google Assistant on the Google Home correctly answered the most questions in four out of the five categories in the test, but fell short of Siri on the HomePod in the "command" category, according to Loup Ventures:
HomePod's lead in this category may come from the fact that the HomePod will pass on full SiriKit requests like those regarding messaging, lists, and basically anything other than music to the iOS device paired to the speaker. Siri on iPhone has deep integration with email, calendar, messaging, and other areas of focus in our Command category. Our question set also contains a fair amount of music-related queries, which HomePod specializes in.
Loup Ventures found the HomePod and Google Home stood "head and shoulders above the others" in both the "local" and "navigation" categories due to propriety data in Apple Maps and Google Maps respectively. "This data is a potential long-term comparative advantage for Siri and Google Assistant," said Munster.

What's Next


Siri's shortcomings were brutally exposed on the HomePod, which relies almost entirely on the assistant to function, so anecdotal evidence of improvement is a good sign, but Apple still has significant ground to make up against its competitors.

Loup Ventures acknowledged that Siri remains limited on the HomePod compared to its expanded capabilities on the iPhone. "This is partially due to Apple's apparent positioning of HomePod not as a 'smart speaker,' but as a home speaker you can interact with using your voice with Siri onboard," said Munster.

The venture capital firm said it will continue to compare the HomePod to other smart speakers over time amid rapid advancements in artificial intelligence.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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Google Assistant iOS App Gains Support for Siri Shortcuts

Google has updated its Assistant app for iOS to support Siri Shortcuts, enabling users to invoke Google's virtual assistant using Apple's virtual assistant, without even having to launch the app.


Once the update has been installed, Assistant users are presented with an "Add to Siri" button that lets them record a phrase of their choosing to be used after saying the "Hey, Siri" command. As long as the iOS device is unlocked, users will then be able to access Assistant by combining the two commands.

The Siri Shortcuts feature also supports additional phrases that users often use with Google Assistant. As The Verge notes, this opens up possibilities for creating custom voice commands for Google actions, including smart home routines, from within Siri.

This isn't the first incidence of virtual assistant crosstalk on Apple devices. Last year, Amazon and Microsoft announced a collaboration that would allow iOS users to access Alexa via the Cortana app, with a "Hey Cortana, open Alexa" voice command.

However, in the latter case, iOS users still can't say "Hey Cortana, open Alexa" from the Home screen, or when the device is locked, because Apple only allows third-party virtual assistants to function within their apps.

Google's Assistant app is a free download for iPhone and iPad, available on the App Store. [Direct Link]


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Google Planning to Launch Echo Show-Like Smart Speaker With Touch Screen Later This Year

Google entered the smart speaker market in 2016 with the introduction of Google Home, allowing users to speak to Google Assistant and control various smart home products, listen to music, get the news, and more. Eventually, Google added the Home Mini and Home Max to the lineup, introducing products that were direct competitors to the Amazon Echo Dot and Apple HomePod, respectively.

Looking forward, the next Google Home will be a smart speaker equipped with a touch display that should arrive in time for the holiday shopping season, according to sources speaking to Nikkei Asian Review. This means that the new device "is likely to be similar to the Amazon Echo Show," which includes a display so users can do things like watch videos, view photos, and hold video calls.

The Lenovo Smart Display with Google Assistant (left) and Amazon Echo Show (right)

Google's plan for the upcoming device is described as "aggressive":
"Google targets to ship some 3 million units for the first batch of the new model of smart speaker that comes with a screen," an industry source said. "It's an aggressive plan."
Earlier in 2018, Google announced a new "Smart Display" platform with partners like Lenovo, JBL, and Sony. Through these partnerships, the Google Assistant can be placed in devices not directly built by Google, like the Lenovo Smart Display and upcoming JBL Link View and ThinQ View. The new product described in today's report would represent Google's own first-party entry into this market.

Google and Amazon butted heads following the launch of the Echo Show last year, when Google removed YouTube from any Amazon Echo device with a screen. Google said that Amazon was violating its terms of service, but in December 2017 a YouTube spokesperson explained that the removal was due to Amazon not carrying certain Google products. This grants the upcoming speaker-equipped Google Home a potential edge in the market as Nikkei points out that playing and browsing YouTube will likely be a major selling point.

For Apple, the company is sticking to smart speakers without full displays. Although the HomePod does include a small screen that provides a visual indicator for Siri and volume buttons, no information regarding the currently playing song or album selection is available. Currently, the main rumor for the next iteration of HomePod is that Apple is working on a low-cost version of the speaker.

Google typically holds a hardware event in October, so we should hear more about the upcoming Google Home speaker with a touch screen -- if it exists -- around that time.


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Google Assistant’s ‘Continued Conversations’ Rolling Out to Reduce Need for ‘OK Google’ Commands

Siri rival Google Assistant received a major update today across the Google Home speaker ecosystem with a feature Google revealed at I/O in May, called "Continued Conversation." Now, when you speak to Google Assistant and wake it up with a "Hey Google" or "OK Google" phrase, you don't need to repeat the phrase again for a follow-up request.

For example, you can ask "Hey Google, what's the weather today?", and then follow up with "And what about tomorrow?" or "Can you remind me to bring an umbrella tomorrow morning?" When your thread of requests is finished, Google explains that you can say "thank you" or "stop" to end the conversation, but Google Assistant will also do this automatically if it detects you're no longer talking to it.


Continued Conversations will need to be turned on in the Google Assistant app's Settings > Preferences > Continued Conversation. When starting up a new conversation you'll still need to say "OK Google" or activate a physical trigger every time, but the company hopes that reducing the instances you need to speak a wake-up phrase will result in more fluid and natural interactions with Google Assistant.

In comparison, Apple's Siri still requires you to say "Hey Siri" every time a command is given, or by activating the AI assistant manually on iPhone or HomePod. Later this year, Apple will debut improvements to Siri in iOS 12 in the form of a new "Siri Shortcuts" feature, allowing iPhone owners to build customizable workflows and connect a variety of third-party apps and services under one voice command.

Siri remains one of the downsides for Apple's products for some users, with a recent survey finding that iPhone X early adopters were very satisfied with all features of the smartphone except Siri. Around the time of that survey, The Information reported that Siri has become a "major problem" within Apple and that the assistant remains "limited compared to the competition," including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.


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Google Says Assistant Works With Over 5,000 Smart Home Devices, HomeKit/Siri Around 200

Google this morning posted a story on its Keyword Blog that highlights the ongoing growth of its AI helper, Google Assistant. According to the company, the Assistant now works with "every major device brand" in the U.S., meaning that it can connect with more than 5,000 smart home devices, up from 1,500 in January.

This growth period saw media and entertainment queries increase by 400 percent, with Google users taking advantage of "OK Google" commands on Android TV, smart TVs, and Chromecast. Another popular area for Google is security cameras like Nest's products, including the Nest Hello doorbell. When someone rings the doorbell, Nest can communicate a chime to Google Home, play a livestream on Chromecast, and then users can respond to their visitor on their smartphone.


Google also laid out plans for Assistant expansions later this year, including placing the Assistant on DISH Hopper receivers, Logitech Harmony remotes, smart door locks from August and Schlage, security cameras from Panasonic, and alarm brand support from ADT, First Alert, and Vivint Smart Home.
Over the past year, we’ve made great progress ensuring that the Google Assistant can work with all types of connected devices, and now every major device brand works with the Assistant in the U.S.

Just how many devices is that? Today, the Google Assistant can connect with more than 5,000 devices for your home—up from 1,500 this January. That includes cameras, dishwashers, doorbells, dryers, lights, plugs, thermostats, security systems, switches, vacuums, washers, fans, locks, sensors, heaters, AC units, air purifiers, refrigerators, ovens … we can keep on going!
For home automation, Apple's solution is HomeKit and Siri. Although not an exact comparison due to potentially missing products, Apple's website has a list of HomeKit-compatible smart home products that reaches to about 200 as of writing, with some yet to launch. Even if it is missing numerous smart home devices, Siri would still be far below Google's newly reported compatibility number. Amazon's Alexa assistant is believed to be leading the field through support with roughly 11,200 smart home products as of 2017, according to market analyst Blake Kozak, who spoke with CNET.

HomeKit users are currently waiting for support from devices like the Ring line of doorbells, while integration with Nest's products is less likely after Nest and Google doubled down on hardware collaborations.

For Siri, Apple's assistant remains many users' least favorite part of their Apple devices, with Siri amassing a 20 percent satisfaction rate among early adopters of the iPhone X. In a recent report by The Information, Siri was described as "limited compared to the competition" like Google Assistant, and the report went so far as to say that the assistant has become a "major problem" within Apple, originating from the company's decision to rush the technology into the iPhone 4s.


Many have theorized the reason behind Siri's lackluster performance could be Apple's commitment to user privacy, unlike Google's actions of leveraging and retaining user data off-device in an effort to enhance queries.

Siri co-founder and creator Norman Winarsky looked back on the digital assistant's creation earlier this year. In an interview, he discussed Apple's decision to "take Siri in a very different direction than the one its founders envisioned," the original plan to focus Siri's intelligence on a few key areas and "gradually" expand its knowledge, and finally stated that Apple is now "looking for a level of perfection they can't get."

As Apple continues to expand Siri, the company in April hired John Giannandrea from Google's own search and artificial intelligence division. Apple's latest Siri- and HomeKit-supported device is HomePod, which allows users to invoke the assistant and interact with compatible products like Philips Hue lights, Ecobee thermostats, August smart locks, and more.

Google is expected to reveal more news about Assistant and other products and services during its I/O conference later this month.


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Google Assistant Now Available on iPad

Google Assistant for iOS has been updated with native iPad support today. The design looks essentially the same as the iPhone version, but with an interface optimized for the larger 7.9-inch to 12.9-inch screen sizes of Apple's tablets.


Like rivals Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, Google Assistant is a digital assistant that can set reminders, schedule calendar appointments, answer questions, and provide other information through machine learning techniques.

Apple only allows third-party assistants to function within their apps, however, limiting their usefulness versus Siri on iPhone and iPad. For example, Google Assistant can't be invoked with a voice command when an iOS device is locked.

Nevertheless, iPad users now have one more option to choose from alongside Siri, Alexa, and Cortana. Google Assistant is free on the App Store.

Related Roundup: iPad Pro

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