Google’s app factory is going into overdrive, readying several new features that empower Google Now and the company’s upcoming digital assistant.
The new features are hinted at in the code of the latest beta version of the Google app, which now powers all of the company’s search and artificial intelligence services on Android.
Why this matters: According to a teardown by Android Police, we’re learning more about how deeply Google services will interact with Android. From the Google assistant to more voice commands, your phone is about to get far more proactive and predictive at serving as your aide. These features will be necessary for features like Android Auto on your phone and the assistant features of Google Allo.
The Google Assistant
While a few hints of the Google Assistant showed up in a previous build, there’s a lot more to be found in version 6.2 of the Google app beta (coming to the Play Store or now on APK Mirror). The teardown found the following drop-down options in the code for settings, which of course may expand as the final build approaches:
- Changes you make here show up across your Google Assistant experience
- About me
- Here are things your assistant can do on
- [a dropdown list of device types]
- Daily Brief
- Google Assistant
- Connected Home
- Google Cast
- Shopping list
- Personal Voice Actions
- Voice shortcut
It looks like a combination of ways you can tweak the type of information that you get and can search for. The Personal Voice Actions seems like it could have more down the road, with shortcuts for different commands.
’Ok Google’ commands
There are plans to fire up driving notifications in Maps using a simple voice command. Such functionality would also extend to Android Auto, part of Google’s plan to rule the car dashboard and keep you focused on driving. Android Auto is coming to phones this year, so you can use it even if you car's in-dash system doesn't support it.
You should see this option when the beta app updates, and it might be worth trying on your next road trip to see what pops up.
Devices, rooms, and groups
Finally, additional code strings show the underlying groundwork for how the Google Assistant will work with the smart home. The idea is you could tell your phone to cast a particular TV show to the living room TV so it doesn’t end up in the den. Making this work seamlessly requires a considerable effort, hence the early work uncovered here. All of this also shows how inter-tangled Google’s ecosystem is, with much of the voice capabilities coming soon to your phone as well as Google Home, the Alexa competitor to come later this year.