At Google I/O, the company has revealed how it's going to make Google Assistant more useful - and more human. It's adding six new voices, including the voice of John Legend, but it's also making Assistant literally feel more like a human being.
The most futuristic and far-reaching thing is Google Duplex, a new experimental feature that will actually make phone calls on your behalf. CEO Sundar Pichai says the company is still developing Duplex, which is aimed to be used for making calls to small businesses, but it will get a limited rollout this summer.
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Duplex can call actual people and respond, in real time, to whatever the person on the other side of the phone is saying. Google showed off a couple of calls at I/O, which included Assistant making a hair appointment and trying - and failing - to make a booking at a restaurant.
The first step to get there is a new feature called Continued Conversation, which is rolling out in the coming weeks. This essentially means that you won't need to keep saying "Hey Google" after every query is done. You can start by saying "Hey Google, did the Golden State Warriors win?" and then Google will answer your question. You can then follow that up by simply saying "When do they play next?" and Google will understand and answer.
Google Assistant can also handle threaded conversations, which Google is referring to as "Multiple Actions." So if you ask Assistant to turn on the Warriors game and start cooking the popcorn, it'll put the TV on the Warriors game and, at the same time, turn on your popcorn machine.
Finally, Google is also teaching Assistant to help kids be more polite. The company says there are some concern out there among parents that smart assistants are training kids to be more demanding and bullying. This new feature is called "Pretty Please", and will basically teach kids to say please and thank you when they ask Assistant for things.
These features all help make Assistant a more natural AI, hopefully reducing some frustrations that people have with AI and making it as simple and smooth as possible to use voice. Multiple Actions, for instance, is a good way to test the intelligence of an AI. It's able to parse out multiple intents for a single sentence.
Continued Conversation is a welcome bit of convenience, and this area of delivering AI that can remember contextual conversations and adjust to your queries is something of a trend. Amazon recently updated Alexa to do something similar with Context Carryover. These features will begin rolling out in the next few weeks.