Google’s annual I/O developer conference took place this past week and we can say with confidence that the future is coming. While speakers gave interesting updates on things like their self-driving cars, Android P and Gmail’s Smart Compose features, those seemed like secondary features to the headline. Google is now one step closer to taking over the world – or at least it seems that way – with the newest Google Assistant updates.
While it’s cool that you can tell your phone or speaker to set your alarm or ask its seemingly omniscient software obscure questions (which is honestly more fun than practical) Google’s robotic voice is about to take it to the next level. While there are a myriad of new features coming to Google Assistant, some of the most exciting additions are the ones that make interactions feel more natural and human-like, while at the same time limiting human involvement.
Get ready for Google Duplex. While not the most enticing name, especially compared to the likes of their previously dessert-themed android names, these features are bound to make you feel like the future is now. Have you needed to plan an appointment but really didn’t want to call them to set it up? Between potentially being put on hold, having to remember exactly what details were confirmed then putting them in your calendar and, most importantly, having to actually talk to someone, it’s an annoying process. I know I’ve definitely had to delay an appointment because by the time I called there was nothing that worked with my schedule, and I know I’m not the only one.
Soon, we can offload that: Google Duplex will deal with it. All you have to do is give Google Assistant the specifics of where, when, and what kind of appointment you want, and it’ll make the call for you and save the details in your Google Calendar. You give it a range of times and/or dates that work with your schedule and it’ll talk to the business on your behalf, even answering random questions like what type of haircut you want. Google showed this off with their new life-like voices, which even uses filler statements like “uhhh” and “mm-hmmm." It sounds so realistic with normal human intonation and real-time understanding, that you would never guess it’s not a person. Maybe we could even use this to get the administration to take off a registration hold while you’re trying to schedule your next quarter in the middle of class.
While this is still under testing, the goal isn’t only to assist your laziness but also to figure out information like closing hours on holidays for businesses that don’t have an updated website. In these information-scouting missions, Google can automatically have this service call places that don’t have their hours easily accessible and then update their Google page, so now we won’t have to use Cozy Noodle’s 11 year-old website to try to figure out if they’re open on a holiday.
If Google calling to set up your appointments or ask for store hours doesn’t quite eliminate the pesky human interaction that’s required in your life, it’ll soon help you order dinner too. With some partnered restaurants, like Starbucks, Panera and DoorDash, you’ll be able to just tell Assistant what you want and if you want to pick it up or have it delivered. It’ll even remember what your favorite dishes are so you can easily reorder things in the future while trying to cram for midterms.
Another Google Assistant feature that I think is fun is called “Pretty Please.” If you have a rude roommate and a Google Home, then you’ll love being able to passive-aggressively teach them manners without actually being confrontational. This new feature will cause your Google Home to respond positively to polite responses, but with a settings box ticked you can require your kids, or aforementioned roommate, to stick the magical “please” and “thank you” in their request before it responds. While it can be set for everyone, you can set it to know certain voices which is part of a broader update that will cause your Assistant to know who’s talking to it and adjust itself accordingly with different voices and settings. Who doesn’t want to hear John Legend respond when you ask your phone the meaning of life?
While none of these updates are quite ready for public release, we can all get ready to count down the days until human interaction becomes a thing of the past. With Google taking care of scheduling, ordering food, and dealing with the struggles of living with someone else, we’ll all have more time to attempt to study. Hopefully, after Google releases these inventions, they can mass-produce a Snowbot that goes to class and turns in assignments, and I can finally live in the EECS future that I’ve always dreamed of.