Tag Archives: Google Assistant

Get more shut-eye in 2019 with help from Google

After a long day, it should be easy to hit the hay at night. But far too often, just as you’re about to drift off, you decide to check why your phone just buzzed...and you’re back to square one.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults should aim to get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Many of us, including yours truly, usually don’t get there.

If you want a fresh start in the new year, here are some tech tips and healthy habits that will help you catch more zzzzs (and get better at counting sheep) in 2019.

1. Set up a bedtime schedule and stick to it with Wind Down.

Wind Down

If you find yourself endlessly scrolling through social feeds or trying to finish just one more level of your favorite game late at night, Wind Down on your Android phone can help you take back control. Wind Down automatically turns on Do Not Disturb and makes your phone less interesting by turning everything grayscale to help you get to sleep at the time you want.

2. Set up Quiet Hours on YouTube.

Quiet Hours on YouTube

Users on both iOS and Android devices can ask the YouTube app to silently send notifications to their phone during a specified time period each day. That means no more sounds or vibrations while you sleep. By default, all sounds and vibrations will be disabled between 10pm and 8am, but you can customize the start and end times to suit your schedule. And don’t worry, updates from your favorite creators will still be right there for you when you wake up.

3. Lull yourself to sleep with soothing sounds.

While complete silence is crucial for some people, others prefer consistent ambient noise to help them get to sleep. If you say “OK Google, help me relax”, the Google Assistant will randomly pick from more than 10 soothing sounds to quietly deliver you to the Land of Nod. You can also pick specific sounds by saying “play fireplace sounds” or “play white noise” once you work out which sounds work best for you.

4. Keep your phone out of reach, and out of mind.

Sunrise Alarm

5. Turn off your lights, and your Wi-Fi.

If you have trouble getting your kids to sleep, Google Wifi has family-friendly controls that allow you to schedule a regular Wi-Fi pause on your kids' devices. That way, your kids aren’t sneakily playing online games under the covers. (And neither are you.)

6. Keep up with the #GetFitWithGoogle challenge.

With all this extra sleep, you’ll have even more energy to spend on your other New Year resolutions like getting fit. For those following along at home from last week, here’s an update on the #GetFitWithGoogle global challenge — a four-week-long competition to see which country’s team of social influencers can earn the most Heart Points during January with Google Fit.

Congrats to Team Colombia for taking the lead on the global leaderboard after week 2!

Get Fit With Google leaderboard

Keep an eye on the #GetFitWithGoogle hashtag on Instagram and follow the teams below to follow their fitness journeys.

Don’t forget to share your own Heart Points progress using #GetFitWithGoogle to help others like you stay motivated.

Hey Google, what’s new with the Assistant at CES this year?

This week, we’re at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to showcase what’s in store for the Google Assistant in 2019. By bringing the best of Google services and AI to the Assistant, we're focused on building the most helpful digital assistant when you’re at home, in your car or on the go. If you’re at CES, stop by the Google Assistant Playground (Central Plaza-1, the outdoor space located directly in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center).

A more connected home

A simpler smart home

Today we’re introducing a preview of Google Assistant Connect, a platform for device manufacturers to bring the Google Assistant into their products in an affordable and easy-to-implement way. Connect uses our existing smart home platform to expand to new device types while making device setup and discovery simple for people.

Assistant Connect creates opportunities to bring different types of smart devices to the market. For example, a partner could create a simple and inexpensive e-ink display that continually projects the weather or your calendar, while using Assistant Connect to deliver content from your linked smart speaker. The Google Assistant handles the higher-order computing—knowing what’s on the calendar, checking for updates, and so on. We’ll have more to share about Assistant Connect and how device makers can gain access to the technology later this year. For device manufacturers who want to learn more about how to integrate Assistant Connect, fill out this form. 

The new Smart Clock and Smart Display

With Lenovo, we're helping you manage your morning and evening routines with a new Smart Clock. With its 4-inch touchscreen, you can see alarm suggestions based on your daily routines, gently wake up with auto-adjusting screen brightness and animations, and control your smart home devices. The Lenovo Smart Clock will be available this Spring for $79.

Lenovo Smart Clock

At CES, Whirlpool also previewed the new KitchenAid Smart Display with the Google Assistant, which guides you through cooking recipes from Yummly and simultaneously controls your smart home devices. Featuring a 10-inch display, the KitchenAid Smart Display is water resistant, for when things get really messy during cooking.

Home entertainment gets better

Listening to music and podcasts is one of the most popular ways people use the Google Assistant, so we’re bringing the Assistant to the Sonos One and Sonos Beam (earlier speaker models will be updated to work with the Assistant). With the Assistant built in, you’ll be able to control your favorite music, podcasts and radio stations from all over your home without ever picking up your phone.

Later this year, the Assistant will work with even more popular media and entertainment devices, including TVs from Samsung. You’ll be able to use your voice to turn on the TV, change volume and channels, and switch between inputs. DISH’s Hopper family of receivers will also now have the Google Assistant built in, so you can search for content based on channel, title, actor or genre, as well as check the weather or control other connected devices in your home, using your DISH voice remote. And, this week at CES, our partners launching and showcasing Android TV devices with the Google Assistant include Sony, Hisense, Philips, TCL, Skyworth, Xiaomi, Haier, Changhong and JVC. Several of these devices will be enabled with far field microphones that allow the Assistant to pick up your voice even with noise in the room or on the TV.

Control more devices at home

The Assistant works with over 1,600 home automation brands and more than 10,000 devices, giving you more control over the devices and appliances in your home. At CES, we’re working with even more brands to launch new smart home devices this year, including select Whirlpool ® connected appliances, GE’s smart microwave and August security products. 

There are also new devices that work with the Assistant across a range of new categories, including:

  • Devices and appliances: Instant Pot's Smart WiFi Programmable Pressure Cooker, Sub Zero’s refrigerator and wine storage, Wolf E-Series and M-Series ovens, Cove dishwashers, U by Moen™ shower
  • HVAC: Rheem’s Econet Smart Thermostat, Côr 7C thermostat by Carrier
  • Security: McAfee’s Secure Home Platform
  • Water Leak Sensors: LeakSmart Leak and Flood Protection, Flo by Moen
  • EV charging: eMotorWorks’ JuiceBox Level 2, SolarEdge’s EV Charging Solar Inverter
  • Irrigation: Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller, Rain Bird Smart WiFi Controllers, Orbit’s B-Hyve

And there’s a new Assistant feature with Philips Hue that helps you wake up. Simply turn on “Gentle Wake Up” and the lights in your bedroom simulate the sunrise 30 minutes before your morning alarm goes off, to help you wake up and feel more energized.

Stay productive and safe on the road

Bringing the Google Assistant to Google Maps

Starting to roll out today, the Assistant can help you navigate in Google Maps for Android and iOS. With just your voice, you'll be able to share your ETA with friends and family, reply to text messages, play music and podcasts, search for places along your route, add a new stop and auto-punctuate your message.

On Android, the Assistant works with messaging services from the following providers: SMS, WhatsApp, Messenger, Hangouts, Viber, Telegram, Android Messages and more. And when you’re driving, the Assistant automatically calculates your ETA from Google Maps if you want to send your arrival time to friends. Just say “Hey Google, take me home,” to open Google Maps and get help from your Assistant on your journey.

Affordable accessories make your car safer

We’re also working with Anker and JBL to build the Assistant into car accessories. Anker Roav Bolt and JBL Link Drive plug into your car’s socket, so you can connect your phone to your car’s stereo via Bluetooth or AUX. Once the accessories are connected in your car, you can use the Assistant hands-free, without having to unlock your phone. These accessories simplify audio input/output and allow the Assistant to hear you clearly, even if there’s loud music or conversations happening. Also previewed at CES is the HumX by Verizon, another car accessory with the Google Assistant built in that lets you pull your vehicle’s diagnostics with just your voice.

On the go with your phone

One example of the innovation that Android brings to OEMs and users is the Google Assistant that's built into more than 1 billion devices, including Android phones. The Google Assistant can be helpful throughout your day on Android devices, whether you are on the go, in the car or at home.

Get a little help with travel

There's a lot to keep track of when you're traveling, from your flight confirmation number to the address of your hotel. Soon, you’ll be able to check in to your flight (starting first with domestic flights with United Airlines), save and retrieve your boarding pass, all with the Google Assistant on Android or iOS. Just say, “Hey Google, check in to my flight”—there’s no need to remember your confirmation number. The Assistant will also proactively notify you when your flight is ready for check-in. And if you know where you want to stay, you can book a room using the Google Assistant with partners like Choice Hotels, AccorHotels, InterContinental Hotels Group, Priceline, Expedia, Mirai and Travelclick - an Amadeus company. We’re also adding support for Google Keep, Any.doBring! and Todoist, when you want to keep track of your itinerary with notes and lists in the Google Assistant.

Check into a flight

Quicker help with the Assistant in the lockscreen

After opting-in through your settings, the Assistant can respond to you even when your Android phone is locked. You can ask your Google Assistant to show restaurants nearby, set up and dismiss alarms, schedule reminders and timers without unlocking your phone. You can also opt in to see answers to personal queries, like traffic updates to work or calendar updates. Currently available for Pixel users, this feature is coming to all Android devices in the next few weeks.

The Assistant can be your interpreter

Speaking a different language no longer has to be a barrier to having a good conversation. With Interpreter Mode, a new feature rolling out over the next few weeks on Google Home devices and Smart Displays, you can ask the Google Assistant to help you have a conversation in dozens of languages. Just say “Hey Google, be my French interpreter” to start Interpreter Mode and get real-time spoken and (on Smart Displays) written translation to aid the conversation. We see this technology expanding to more places—it could help you check in at a foreign hotel or help you understand the bus schedule. We’ll be piloting Interpreter Mode this week at CES at the concierge desk in Caesars Palace, and at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco and Dream Downtown in New York City. Stop by any of these places to try it out!

Interpreter Mode

Phew—that was a lot! We’re looking forward to showing you our vision for the Google Assistant in the home, car and on your phone this week at CES. Stop by our Google Assistant Playground (Central Plaza-1) to see all the new ways the Assistant can give you some help throughout your day.

Two new ways the Google Assistant can help with an upcoming trip

The start of a new year is a great time to de-stress from the holidays and plan vacations for the year. While we can’t promise shorter security lines, extra leg room or a suite with an ocean view, we’re introducing a couple of new features in the Google Assistant to make your travels a little smoother.

Check in for your flight with ease

With your Assistant, you can already search for upcoming flights, get prices and track your flight status, but now we’re taking you one step closer to boarding your plane. You’ll soon be able to check in to your flight, and save and retrieve your boarding pass with the Google Assistant on your Android or iOS smartphone.

If you’re traveling domestically on United Airlines and your flight confirmation is in Gmail, the Assistant will send you a notification on your phone to remind you that check-in is available. You can also say, “Hey Google, check in to my flight” to prompt the Assistant to check in for you, so you don’t need to remember your confirmation number. And after you’ve checked in, you can view your boarding pass in Google Pay or say, “Hey Google, show me my boarding pass.”  

TravelAssistant_check_ins.png

We’re rolling out this feature first with domestic flights serviced by United Airlines, and we look forward to expanding this feature to more airlines and flights soon.

Sleep easy with hotel bookings from the Assistant

If you have a hotel in mind, the Assistant can help you book a room through a quick conversation on your phone. You could say, “Hey Google, I’d like to book the Cambria Hotel in New York on January 12th” to view availability, different pricing options and then easily reserve a room using your existing Google Pay credentials.

TravelAssistant_hotel_booking.png

We’re working with a range of companies to enable fast, simple hotel bookings, from hotels like Choice Hotels, AccorHotels and InterContinental Hotels Group to online travel agencies and partners such as Priceline, Expedia, Mirai and Travelclick - an Amadeus company. This feature is currently available in the U.S. on Android and iOS smartphones and is just the first step in our goal of easing the hotel booking process with the Assistant.

This is a busy time of year, so we hope these new tips with the Google Assistant can help you save time and focus on the most important part of traveling—the journey itself.

Here’s how the Google Assistant became more helpful in 2018

In 2018, the Google Assistant learned to speak new languages (Nǐ hǎo!), expanded to new regions (like the Netherlands, Indonesia and Turkey), and became smarter with new features that can help you throughout your day. Along the way, more people started using the Assistant to get some help—active users of the Google Assistant grew four times over the past year. By the end of this month, we expect the Google Assistant to be available on one billion devices, up from 500 million last May.

Here are some of the ways the Assistant became more helpful in 2018:

  • Google Home for the holidays: It was another record year for our Google Home family of devices, with millions sold this holiday season. Smart displays were particularly popular—one out of every seven Google Home devices activated over the holiday period was a Google Home Hub. With a rich visual display for photos, videos and visual answers, people found new ways to use their Assistant on Google Home Hub—hundreds of millions of photos were shown and hundreds of millions of minutes of music and videos were enjoyed over this holiday season.
  • The Assistant went global: We taught the Assistant to speak new languages and understand local cultures—it’s now in nearly 30 languages and 80 countries, up from eight languages and 14 countries last year. And the Assistant became multilingual, so you can speak more than one language to it at home.
  • Smart home central: You can manage your smart home all in one place with the Google Assistant, which is now compatible with over 10,000 smart home devices from over 1,600 popular brands. The number of smart devices that have been connected to the Google Assistant increased more than 600% over the last year.
  • Book your table with Pixel: Pixel users in select states in the U.S. were the first to get access to an experimental new Google Assistant feature—powered by Duplex technology—which helps you complete tasks over the phone, like calling a restaurant to book a table.
  • Natural conversation: The Assistant became a smarter conversationalist, so it can understand and respond to you naturally. Last summer, we introduced Continued Conversation, which lets you have a natural back-and-forth conversation with the Assistant. The Assistant can also understand more complex requests, so you can ask about many things at once, like “What’s the weather like in New York and in Austin?” And Pretty Please helped people encourage polite manners with their family.
  • Broadcast to your family:When you’re on the go, it’s easier to stay connected to your loved ones with Broadcast replies. This holiday season, more than 24 million broadcast messages and replies were sent.
  • Cooking companion: With our line-up of new Smart Displays and Google Home Hub, the Google Assistant can give you a hand in the kitchen with recipes and step-by-step cooking instructions, and we made it an even better sous chef with smart recommendations based on the time of day and your preferences. People used Google Home devices to cook over 16 million recipes this holiday season, with over a million recipes used on Christmas day alone.
  • Family time: From family games to story time to music, we worked to make the Assistant a great way to connect and enjoy time with your family. You can ask the Assistant to read along some of your favorite titles with you, complete with sound effects and music that bring the story to life. And you can sing along to your favorite songs with your Smart Display. And for families with kids, parents probably could have guessed that “Baby Shark” was the most requested song on Google Home speakers this holiday season.
  • Getting organized: Notes and lists in the Google Assistant made holiday shopping a little less stressful, helping you add and keep track of lists with just your voice. We also helped you get many things done with just one command with Routines. You can even start a routine by hitting dismiss on your alarm right from the Clock app on Android.
  • Eight new voices: Thanks to advancements in AI, we can now create new voices for the Assistant in just a few weeks, while capturing subtleties like pitch, pace and all the pauses that convey meaning—so the voices are natural-sounding and unique. We brought eight new voices for the Google Assistant in the U.S. this year, including voices with British and Australian accents.
  • Smart suggestions on your phone: We gave the Assistant on your phone a fresh look and made it more helpful. You can see a quick snapshot of your day, with suggestions and visual reminders based on the time of day, location and recent interactions with the Assistant.
  • Book a ride and movie tickets: We made it easier to plan your night out, with features like booking a ride service from the Assistant and buying movie tickets from Fandango.
  • Take care of your IOUs:You can use the Google Assistant to pay your friends back with Google Pay, so you can spend more time having fun and less time dealing with the hassle of paying each other back.

From day one, we’ve built the Assistant with one goal in mind: to help you get things done. Tomorrow, we’ll unveil even more ways the Assistant can help you at home, in the car and on the go at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. If you’re at CES, be sure to swing by the Google Assistant Playground (Central Plaza-1) for a firsthand look!

Deck the halls with help from Google Home Hub

Ahh, the holidays. It's the time of year where you might want to sink into your couch for a movie marathon, but you also have to chase a few toddlers around and get ready to host your entire family for dinner. This season, we’re here to help with a few ways you can take the hassle out of the holidays with Google Home Hub.


Get festive

Quit digging under the Christmas tree to turn on the lights—ask Google Home Hub to do it for you by plugging your lights into a compatible smart plug. Then say, “Hey Google, turn on the Christmas tree,” to watch it light up. While you’re decking the halls, your favorite holiday tunes are only a few words away as well. Just say, “Hey Google, play Christmas hits” to get those sleigh bells ringing (you may need a subscription).


Get the family together

As you’re snapping selfies with the fam, our live albums feature with Google Photos will let you see your best and latest shots on Hub automatically. And while everyone is gathered around, you can relive memories of holidays past. Just say, “Hey Google, show my photos from last December.” Or, you can all curl up on the couch and have Hub tell you a holiday story.


Get ready for Santa

If you’re a parent like me, getting your kids excited about the arrival of Santa is so much fun. If they’re wondering when the presents will start showing up, Google Home Hub can help you track Santa’s arrival starting December 23. Just say, “Hey Google, where’s Santa?” If Christmas Eve is too far away, “Hey Google, call Santa” will connect you to the North Pole, so you can help Santa rehearse for his musical concert.


Get help in the kitchen

Whether you’re crafting a gingerbread house, mixing your favorite holiday cocktail or just trying not to ruin the turducken, use your voice to browse millions of recipes, get step-by-step cooking instructions, set cooking timers and more. With “My Cookbook” you can even save your favorite recipes on Hub for your next holiday party.  


Get things done

The holidays are hectic, so let Google Home Hub be your personal taskmaster. You can set reminders to make sure that you hide the package deliveries and Hub can even remember where you hid your gifts after you wrapped them. If you’re traveling this holiday season, get quick and easy driving and flight info on Hub, with directions sent right to your phone. And, if you’re panicking because one of your present deliveries is delayed, don’t worry—just say “Hey Google, where is the closest toy store?” (insert “jewelry store” as needed).  


Get ready to be the life of the party

My wife tells me that New Year’s Eve is the best time to try a new makeup technique. With Google Home Hub, you can ace any look, hands-free, with help from Sephora. Just say, “Hey Google, show me holiday party looks videos by Sephora.” You can also brush up on the latest dance moves before your New Year’s Eve party with Hub. Try: “Hey Google, show me how to do the floss” and you’ll be grooving in no time. And if you’re the one hosting the party this year, the Nest Hello video doorbell works with Google Home Hub to show you who’s at the front door automatically. Use the new two-way talk back feature to greet your guests to let them know the door is open and the champagne is flowing.


Now that you've gotten everything taken care of with Google Home Hub, get back to the couch and press play on more holiday movies.


Tasty: A Recipe for Success on the Google Home Hub

Posted by Julia Chen Davidson, Head of Partner Marketing, Google Home

We recently launched the Google Home Hub, the first ever Made by Google smart speaker with a screen, and we knew that a lot of you would want to put these helpful devices in the kitchen—perhaps the most productive room in the house. With the Google Assistant built-in to the Home Hub, you can use your voice—or your hands—to multitask during meal time. You can manage your shopping list, map out your family calendar, create reminders for the week, and even help your kids out with their homework.

To make the Google Assistant on the Home Hub even more helpful in the kitchen, we partnered with BuzzFeed's Tasty, the largest social food network in the world, to bring 2,000 of their step-by-step tutorials to the Assistant, adding to the tens of thousands of recipes already available. With Tasty on the Home Hub, you can search for recipes based on the ingredients you have in the pantry, your dietary restrictions, cuisine preferences and more. And once you find the right recipe, Tasty will walk you through each recipe with instructional videos and step-by-step guidance.

Tasty's Action shows off how brands can combine voice with visuals to create next-generation experiences for our smart homes. We asked Sami Simon, Product Manager for BuzzFeed Media Brands, a few questions about building for the Google Assistant and we hope you'll find some inspiration for how you can combine voice and touch for the new category of devices in our homes.

What additive value do you see for your users by building an Action for the Google Assistant that's different from an app or YouTube video series, for example?

We all know that feeling when you have your hands in a bowl of ground meat and you realize you have to tap the app to go to the next step or unpause the YouTube video you were watching (I can attest to random food smudges all over my phone and computer for this very reason!).


With our Action, people can use the Google Assistant to get a helping hand while cooking, navigating a Tasty recipe just by using their voice. Without having to break the flow of rolling out dough or chopping an onion, we can now guide people on what to expect next in their cooking process. What's more, with the Google Home Hub, which has the added bonus of a display screen, home chefs can also quickly glance at the video instructions for extra guidance.

The Google Home Hub gives users all of Google, in their home, at a glance. What advantages do you see for Tasty in being a part of voice-enabled devices in the home?

The Assistant on the Google Home Hub enhances the Tasty experience in the kitchen, making it easier than ever for home chefs to cook Tasty recipes, either by utilizing voice commands or the screen display. Tasty is already the centerpiece of the kitchen, and with the Google Home Hub integration, we have the opportunity to provide additional value to our audience. For instance, we've introduced features like Clean Out My Fridge where users share their available ingredients and Tasty recommends what to cook. We're so excited that we can seamlessly provide inspiration and coaching to all home chefs and make cooking even more accessible.

How do you think these new devices will shape the future of digital assistance? How did you think through when to use voice and visual components in your Action?

In our day-to-day lives, we don't necessarily think critically about the best way to receive information in a given instance, but this project challenged us to create the optimal cooking experience. Ultimately we designed the Action to be voice-first to harness the power of the Assistant.

We then layered in the supplemental visuals to make the cooking experience even easier and make searching our recipe catalogue more fun. For instance, if you're busy stir frying, all the pertinent information would be read aloud to you, and if you wanted to quickly check what this might look like, we also provide the visual as additional guidance.

Can you elaborate on 1-3 key findings that your team discovered while testing the Action for the Home Hub?

Tasty's lens on cooking is to provide a fun and accessible experience in the kitchen, which we wanted to have come across with the Action. We developed a personality profile for Tasty with the mission of connecting with chefs of all levels, which served as a guide for making decisions about the Action. For instance, once we defined the voice of Tasty, we knew how to keep the dialogue conversational in order to better resonate with our audience.

Additionally, while most people have had some experience with digital assistants, their knowledge of how assistants work and ways that they use them vary wildly from person to person. When we did user testing, we realized that unlike designing UX for a website, there weren't as many common design patterns we could rely on. Keeping this in mind helped us to continuously ensure that our user paths were as clear as possible and that we always provided users support if they got lost or confused.

What are you most excited about for the future of digital assistance and branded experiences there? Where do you foresee this ecosystem going?

I'm really excited for people to discover more use cases we haven't even dreamed of yet. We've thoroughly explored practical applications of the Assistant, so I'm eager to see how we can develop more creative Actions and evolve how we think about digital assistants. As the Assistant will only get smarter and better at predicting people's behavior, I'm looking forward to seeing the growth of helpful and innovative Actions, and applying those to Tasty's mission to make cooking even more accessible.

What's next for Tasty and your Action? What additional opportunities do you foresee for your brand in digital assistance or conversational interfaces?

We are proud of how our Action leverages the Google Assistant to enhance the cooking experience for our audience, and excited for how we can evolve the feature set in the future. The Tasty brand has evolved its videos beyond our popular top-down recipe format. It would be an awesome opportunity to expand our Action to incorporate the full breadth of the Tasty brand, such as our creative long-form programming or extended cooking tutorials, so we can continue helping people feel more comfortable in the kitchen.

To check out Tasty's Action yourself, just say "Hey Google, ask Tasty what I should make for dinner" on your Home Hub or Smart Display. And to learn more about the solutions we have for businesses, take a look at our Assistant Business site to get started building for the Google Assistant.

If you don't have the resources to build in-house, you can also work with our talented partners that have already built Actions for all types of use cases. To make it even easier to find the perfect partner, we recently launched a new website that shows these agencies on a map with more details about how to get in touch. And if you're an agency already building Actions, we'd love to hear from you. Just reach out here and we'll see if we can offer some help along the way!

Go Home Alone Again with the Google Assistant—ya filthy animal

Twenty-eight years ago, we met the precocious Kevin McCallister in “Home Alone,” the highest-grossing Christmas movie of all time. Now, Macaulay Culkin has reprised his role as the ever-resourceful Kevin in our new holiday film, "Home Alone Again with the Google Assistant."

The video features a modern-day Kevin, who shows us what happens when he finds that he has the house to himself, and the Google Assistant on his side. He adds aftershave to his shopping list, sets an “Operation Kevin” custom routine to lock his door, turn on the lights and make sure the Wet Bandits don’t stand a chance.

Starting today and for a limited time, your Assistant can take you back to some of the most iconic moments from the film with quotes from your favorite scenes. To join in on the nostalgia, simply say “Hey Google…”:

  • “How much do I owe you?” and you’ll be reminded to “Keep the change, you filthy animal.”  
  • “Did I forget something?” and the famous “KEVINNNNNNNNNN” scream will play back.
  • “It’s me Snakes. I got the stuff,” to recreate a back-and-forth dialogue from the movie Kevin watches, "Angels with Filthy Souls."
  • “The Wet Bandits are here” to trigger Kevin defending his house.
  • “I'm the man of the house” to relive the famous scene when Kevin tries aftershave.

To continue the fun, check out a behind-the-scenes look at the taping, featuring the funniest moments on set. For Culkin, shooting "Home Alone Again with the Google Assistant" brought him back to his original days on set. “They did a very good job on the set decoration, the props, and all the shots were spot on,” he says. “I am thinking and hoping that people will really dig it.”

Tasty: A Recipe for Success on the Google Home Hub

Posted by Julia Chen Davidson, Head of Partner Marketing, Google Home

We recently launched the Google Home Hub, the first ever Made by Google smart speaker with a screen, and we knew that a lot of you would want to put these helpful devices in the kitchen—perhaps the most productive room in the house. With the Google Assistant built-in to the Home Hub, you can use your voice—or your hands—to multitask during meal time. You can manage your shopping list, map out your family calendar, create reminders for the week, and even help your kids out with their homework.

To make the Google Assistant on the Home Hub even more helpful in the kitchen, we partnered with BuzzFeed's Tasty, the largest social food network in the world, to bring 2,000 of their step-by-step tutorials to the Assistant, adding to the tens of thousands of recipes already available. With Tasty on the Home Hub, you can search for recipes based on the ingredients you have in the pantry, your dietary restrictions, cuisine preferences and more. And once you find the right recipe, Tasty will walk you through each recipe with instructional videos and step-by-step guidance.

Tasty's Action shows off how brands can combine voice with visuals to create next-generation experiences for our smart homes. We asked Sami Simon, Product Manager for BuzzFeed Media Brands, a few questions about building for the Google Assistant and we hope you'll find some inspiration for how you can combine voice and touch for the new category of devices in our homes.

What additive value do you see for your users by building an Action for the Google Assistant that's different from an app or YouTube video series, for example?

We all know that feeling when you have your hands in a bowl of ground meat and you realize you have to tap the app to go to the next step or unpause the YouTube video you were watching (I can attest to random food smudges all over my phone and computer for this very reason!).


With our Action, people can use the Google Assistant to get a helping hand while cooking, navigating a Tasty recipe just by using their voice. Without having to break the flow of rolling out dough or chopping an onion, we can now guide people on what to expect next in their cooking process. What's more, with the Google Home Hub, which has the added bonus of a display screen, home chefs can also quickly glance at the video instructions for extra guidance.

The Google Home Hub gives users all of Google, in their home, at a glance. What advantages do you see for Tasty in being a part of voice-enabled devices in the home?

The Assistant on the Google Home Hub enhances the Tasty experience in the kitchen, making it easier than ever for home chefs to cook Tasty recipes, either by utilizing voice commands or the screen display. Tasty is already the centerpiece of the kitchen, and with the Google Home Hub integration, we have the opportunity to provide additional value to our audience. For instance, we've introduced features like Clean Out My Fridge where users share their available ingredients and Tasty recommends what to cook. We're so excited that we can seamlessly provide inspiration and coaching to all home chefs and make cooking even more accessible.

How do you think these new devices will shape the future of digital assistance? How did you think through when to use voice and visual components in your Action?

In our day-to-day lives, we don't necessarily think critically about the best way to receive information in a given instance, but this project challenged us to create the optimal cooking experience. Ultimately we designed the Action to be voice-first to harness the power of the Assistant.

We then layered in the supplemental visuals to make the cooking experience even easier and make searching our recipe catalogue more fun. For instance, if you're busy stir frying, all the pertinent information would be read aloud to you, and if you wanted to quickly check what this might look like, we also provide the visual as additional guidance.

Can you elaborate on 1-3 key findings that your team discovered while testing the Action for the Home Hub?

Tasty's lens on cooking is to provide a fun and accessible experience in the kitchen, which we wanted to have come across with the Action. We developed a personality profile for Tasty with the mission of connecting with chefs of all levels, which served as a guide for making decisions about the Action. For instance, once we defined the voice of Tasty, we knew how to keep the dialogue conversational in order to better resonate with our audience.


Additionally, while most people have had some experience with digital assistants, their knowledge of how assistants work and ways that they use them vary wildly from person to person. When we did user testing, we realized that unlike designing UX for a website, there weren't as many common design patterns we could rely on. Keeping this in mind helped us to continuously ensure that our user paths were as clear as possible and that we always provided users support if they got lost or confused.

What are you most excited about for the future of digital assistance and branded experiences there? Where do you foresee this ecosystem going?

I'm really excited for people to discover more use cases we haven't even dreamed of yet. We've thoroughly explored practical applications of the Assistant, so I'm eager to see how we can develop more creative Actions and evolve how we think about digital assistants. As the Assistant will only get smarter and better at predicting people's behavior, I'm looking forward to seeing the growth of helpful and innovative Actions, and applying those to Tasty's mission to make cooking even more accessible.

What's next for Tasty and your Action? What additional opportunities do you foresee for your brand in digital assistance or conversational interfaces?

We are proud of how our Action leverages the Google Assistant to enhance the cooking experience for our audience, and excited for how we can evolve the feature set in the future. The Tasty brand has evolved its videos beyond our popular top-down recipe format. It would be an awesome opportunity to expand our Action to incorporate the full breadth of the Tasty brand, such as our creative long-form programming or extended cooking tutorials, so we can continue helping people feel more comfortable in the kitchen.

To check out Tasty's Action yourself, just say "Hey Google, ask Tasty what I should make for dinner" on your Home Hub or Smart Display. And to learn more about the solutions we have for businesses, take a look at our Assistant Business site to get started building for the Google Assistant.

If you don't have the resources to build in-house, you can also work with our talented partners that have already built Actions for all types of use cases. To make it even easier to find the perfect partner, we recently launched a new website that shows these agencies on a map with more details about how to get in touch. And if you're an agency already building Actions, we'd love to hear from you. Just reach out here and we'll see if we can offer some help along the way!

How the Google Assistant masters conversations—and you can, too

Heading home for the holidays? Here’s hoping it’ll be a joyous reunion with friends and family, with plenty of cookies to go around. But if you’ve already been dreading those questions from your great-aunt about your love life, consider the ways we teach the Assistant to have natural conversations—it’ll make the talk your great-aunt a little less dreadful.

I’m on the Assistant’s conversational design team, where we work to make your chats with the Google Assistant as pleasant as possible. I’ve been teaching computers how to talk for nearly 20 years, starting my career working on some of those automated phone systems you’ve probably dealt with when you lost a suitcase at the airport. (In my case on a recent trip to Norway, it took 10 of those phone calls to find that lost bag!)

In my years in the industry, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to make conversations work. And so has the Google Assistant.

Give just the right amount of information.

We’ve all had that one relative who keeps droning on about a boring topic at the dinner table, oblivious to the fact that half the room has dozed off. And sometimes we experience the opposite problem, where we ask someone a question and they don’t provide enough information. Like when I ask my son what time it is, and he responds, “Yes.”

To strike the right balance when we design conversations for the Google Assistant, we follow something called the Cooperative Principle, proposed by Paul Grice in the 1970s. His Maxim of Quantity means we shouldn’t talk too much, or too little.

Here’s an example of a conversation that follows the Maxim of Quantity, along with one that doesn’t.

Do
Uncle Anthony: So, how is your first year of college going?
Me: Great! I’m taking four classes.  My favorite is called “Taking care of turtles in the 21st century.” Do you know what a turtle’s favorite food is?

Don't
Uncle Anthony: So, how is your first year of college going?|
Me: Great! I’m taking four classes. My favorite is called “Taking care of turtles in the 21st century.” Some turtles are carnivores, and some are vegetarian. Sea turtles even eat squid. Leatherback sea turtles can grow to 1000 pounds!
Uncle Anthony: Zzzzzzz….

goldfish

Illustration by Kimberly Harvey, conversation designer, Google Assistant

Make it clear when it’s the other person’s turn to talk.

We use a variety of signals to let another person know when we’ve finished talking, and when it’s the next person’s turn to talk. For example, when I pause to take a bite of peppermint bark, that’s an opening for the other person to speak. When designing conversations with computers, which aren’t able to use things like eye contact and body language to determine when it’s their turn, it’s key to end each turn with a question or an instruction, to avoid confusion. And that tactic can work with your family, too, so you’re not always talking over one another.

Do
Me: So I went to this awesome concert. Have you ever been to a concert?
Grandma: Yes, I went to see the Beach Boys in 1987. What a show! Who did you see, dear?
Me: Wow, how interesting. I went to a show called Punky Kittens.  

Don't
Me: So I went to this awesome concert. Have you ever been to a concert? I went--
Grandma Zara: Yes, I went to--
Me: --went to the greatest show the other day, and...
Grandma Zara: What?
Me: What?

Acknowledge the person you’re speaking with.

One of our most basic desires as humans is to be understood. We want to know the other person is hearing us correctly, like when you ask your brother to pass the green beans, not the gravy. One way the Assistant does this is by using something called “implicit confirmation.” This is how you let someone know they’ve been heard, and establish trust. Let’s see an example where, due to a misunderstanding, a cranberry crisis nearly occurs:

Do
Me: Hey Joanne, I love (mumble mumble) cranberry sauce!|
Chef cousin who hates canned cranberry sauce: You like canned cranberry sauce?  
Me: Actually I said FRESH cranberry sauce…
Chef: Me too!
Crisis averted.)

Don't
Me: Hey Joanne, I love <mumble mumble> cranberry sauce!
Chef: What? I hate that stuff!
Me: Oh yeah? I don’t see why, you make it every year!
(Crisis!)

Only use visuals when they’re appropriate.

The Google Assistant is available on multiple types of devices, from the voice-only Google Home, to the voice-forward Home Hub, to the multi-modal mobile phone. Because of this, we need to consider when it’s most appropriate to introduce visuals, such as cards or carousels, to the conversation.

Our go-to design principle is to add visuals when they enhance the discussion, and not to let them overshadow the rest of the conversation. Try to keep this in mind when you’re sitting down with family and friends.

Do
Me: I just came back from a trip to Costa Rica, where we saw some amazing monkeys. Here’s my favorite monkey picture! <shows 1 photo>
Everyone: Oooh! How cute!

Don't
Me: Who wants to see my slideshow of my cruise to Costa Rica? I have 350 photos. Let me find that one on the beach where I saw a monkey. In fact, I’ll show you all 50 of them!
Everyone: (Runs away.)

Get some practice with your Assistant.

Before you head out for the holidays, try having a few conversations with your Google Assistant and see if you can spot these great communication principles in action. We hope that by following some of these best practices, your holiday dinners will be more pleasant and relaxed.  

And if you’re looking for some fun things to do with your Google Assistant, try saying “Hey Google, talk to Santa” or “Hey Google, tell me a winter story.”

Say “G’day” and “Cheerio” to new accents for your Google Assistant

Starting today, if you’re an English speaker in the U.S., you can choose between an Australian-accented voice and a British-accented voice for your Google Assistant across devices.

All of the features you use are still the same—like setting a timer, checking the weather and getting an overview of your commute—only now, your Assistant will speak with a new accent. Try asking “Hey Google, what’s the exchange rate from British pound to U.S. dollar?,” “Hey Google, what’s the capital of Australia?,” or “Hey Google, where can I get fish and chips nearby?”

These voices are built using DeepMind’s speech synthesis model WaveNet, which uses deep neural networks to generate raw audio waveforms—resulting in more realistic and natural-sounding voices for the Google Assistant.

To try out these new voices on your Assistant, navigate to “Settings” on your phone, tap on the “Assistant” tab, and select “Assistant voice.” You’ll now see two new voices that you can select, either “Sydney Harbour Blue” for the Australian voice, or “British Racing Green” for the British voice.

We hope you enjoy these new voices as much as we do. Cheers!