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Google unveils a platter of Assistant updates

Scheduled actions and more privacy features are coming to Google Assistant

Google didn’t have any hardware to show at CES 2020, but it did have a spate of new Assistant features to talk about.

The company hasn’t given anything in the way of a specific rollout date for these updates, but says users can expect to see them emerge to the public “later this year.”

Reading webpages out loud

Google Assistant can already read your texts out loud, but this year Google is adding the ability for its digital helper to read full webpages. You’ll only need to say “Hey Google, read this page” and Assistant will say what it sees, apparently with enough intelligence to skip things like ads and social sharing buttons.

Scheduled actions

You’d think this would already be a feature. Google says it is adding the ability for users to line up one-off requests for future actions, such as “Hey Google, turn on the lights at 7am.”

More smart home gizmos

Google is expanding its stable of compatible smart home devices, adding – deep breath – August Smart Locks, Philips Hue HDMI Sync Box, GE Appliances Ultrafresh Front Load Washer, Telus Wi-Fi Hub routers, Somfy TaHoma Hub, Yeelight Staria Bedside Lamp Pro, MOEN shower, D-Link Outdoor Wi-Fi Spotlight camera, VIAROOM Smart and MerossSmart’s garage door opener.

Speed dial

This year Google will introduce a speed dial function, where important contacts can be contacted with a spoken instruction to Assistant, or a quick tap on their name if you have a Google smart display.

Household notes

Another useful one for smart display owners, this feature lets users pin notes to their screen using spoken commands. Say something along the lines of “Hey Google, leave a note that says ‘Pick up milk’” and it’ll create a Post-it-esque message.

‘Er… That wasn’t for you’

Privacy updates were also on Google’s list, with commands to easily clear user history and check data settings. Say “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you,” and Assistant will delete what it just heard if it happens to be activated accidentally. Say “Hey Google, delete everything I said to you this week,” and it’ll clear the week’s logs. Ask “Hey Google, are you saving my audio data?” and it’ll give you an overview of your privacy settings.

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