Now that we’ve packed up all of the virtual stages from Google I/O 2021, let's take a look at some of the highlights and new product announcements for App Actions, Conversational Actions, and Smart Home Actions. We also held a number of amazing live events and meetups that happened during I/O - which we’ll summarize as well.
App Actions allows developers to extend their Android App to Google Assistant. For our Android Developers, we are happy to announce that App Actions is now part of the Android framework. With the introduction of the beta shortcuts.xml configuration resource and our latest Google Assistant Plug App Actions is moving closer to the Android platform.
Capabilities is a new Android framework API that allows you to declare the types of actions users can take to launch your app and jump directly to performing a specific task. Assistant provides the first available concrete implementation of the capabilities API. You can utilize capabilities by creating shortcuts.xml resources and defining your capabilities. Capabilities specify two things: how it's triggered and what to do when it's triggered. To add a capability, use Built-In intents (BIIs), which are pre-built intents that provide all the Natural Language Understanding to map the user's input to individual fields. When a BII is matched by the user’s speech, your capability will trigger an Android Intent that delivers the understood BII fields to your app, so you can determine what to show in response.
This framework integration is in the Beta release stage, and will eventually replace the original implementation of App Actions that uses actions.xml. If your app provides both the new shortcuts.xml and old actions.xml, the latter will be disregarded.
Voice shortcuts for Discovery
Google Assistant suggests relevant shortcuts to users and has made it easier for users to discover and add shortcuts by saying “Hey Google, shortcuts.”
You can use the Google Shortcuts Integration library, currently in beta, to push an unlimited number of dynamic shortcuts to Google to make your shortcuts visible to users as voice shortcuts. Assistant can suggest relevant shortcuts to users to help make it more convenient for the user to interact with your Android app.
In-App Promo SDK
Not only can Assistant suggest shortcuts, with In-App Promo SDK you can proactively suggest shortcuts in your app for actions that the user can repeat with a voice command to Assistant, in beta. The SDK allows you to check if the shortcut you want to suggest already exists for that user and prompt the user to create the suggested shortcut.
Google Assistant plugin for Android Studio
To support testing Capabilities, Google Assistant plugin for Android Studio was launched. It contains an updated App Action Test Tool that creates a preview of your App Action, so you can test an integration before publishing it to the Play store.
New App Actions resources
Learn more with new or updated content:
- Updated and new Documentation, including a new App Action Overview Video
- New beta codelab that walks you through adding two common BIIs using capabilities defined in shortcuts.xml
- 9 new videos on the App Actions Playlist, which include How to voicify your Android app and Android shortcuts for Assistant sessions, App Actions AMA, short 2 min demos of How to create your first App Action and App Actions test tool
During the What's New in Google Assistant keynote, Director of Product for the Google Assistant Developer Platform Rebecca Nathenson mentioned several coming updates and changes for Conversational Actions.
Updates to Interactive Canvas
Over the coming weeks, we’ll introduce new functionality to Interactive Canvas. Canvas developers will be able to manage intent fulfillment client-side, removing the need for intermediary webhooks in some cases. For use cases which require server-side fulfillment, like transactions and account linking, developers will be able to opt-in to server-side fulfillment as needed.
We’re also introducing a new function,
outputTts(), which allows you to trigger Text to Speech client-side. This should help reduce latency for end users.
Additionally, there will be updates to the APIs available to get and set storage for both the home and individual users, allowing for client-side storage of user information. You’ll be able to persist user information within your web app, which was previously only available for access by webhook.
These new features for Interactive Canvas will be made available soon as part of a developer preview for Conversational Actions Developers. For more details on these new features, check out the preview page.
Updates to Transaction UX for Smart Displays
Also coming soon to Conversational Actions - we’re updating the workflow for completing transactions, allowing users to complete transactions from their smart screens, by confirming the CVC code from their chosen payment method. Watch our demo video showing new transaction features on smart devices to get a feel for these changes.
Tips on Launching your Conversational Action
Make sure to catch our technical session Driving a successful launch for Conversational Actions to learn about some strategies for putting together a marketing team and go-to-market plan for releasing your Conversational Action.
AMA: Games on Google Assistant
If you’re interested in building Games for Google Assistant with Conversational Actions, you should check out the recording of our AMA, where Googlers answered questions from I/O attendees about designing, building, and launching games.
Smart Home Actions
The What's new in Smart Home keynote covered several updates for Smart Home Actions. Following our continued emphasis on quality smart home integrations with the updated policy launch, we added new features to help you build engaging, reliable Actions for your users.
Test Suite and Analytics
The updated Test Suite for Smart Home now supports automatic testing, without the use of TTS. Additionally, the Analytics dashboards have been expanded with more detailed logs and in-depth error reporting to help you more quickly identify any potential issues with your Action. For a deeper dive into these enhancements, try out the Debugging the Smart Home workshop. There are also two new debugging codelabs to help you get more familiar with using these tools to improve the quality of your Action.
We expanded support for proactive notifications to include the device traits RunCycle and SensorState. Users can now be proactively notified for multiple different device events. We also announced the release of follow-up responses. These follow-up responses enable your smart devices to notify users asynchronously to device changes succeeding or failing.
We added support for WebRTC to the CameraStream trait. Smart camera users can now benefit from lower latency and half-duplex talk between devices. As mentioned in the keynote, we will also be making updates to the other currently supported protocols for smart cameras.
Bluetooth Seamless Setup
To improve the on-boarding experience, developers can now enable BLE (bluetooth low energy) for device onboarding with Bluetooth Seamless Setup. Google Home and Nest devices can act as local hubs to provision and register nearby devices for any Action configured with local fulfillment.
Project CHIP has officially rebranded as Matter. Once the IP-based connectivity protocol officially launches, we will be supporting devices running the protocol. Watch the Getting started with Project CHIP tech session to learn more.
Ecosystem and Community
The women building voice AI and their role in the voice revolution
Voice AI is fundamentally changing how we interact with technology and its future will be a product of the people that build it. Watch this session to hear about the talented women shaping the Voice AI field, including an interview with Lilian Rincon, Sr. Director of Product Management at Google. Leslie also discusses strategies for achieving equal gender representation in Voice AI, an ambitious but essential goal.
AMA: How the Assistant Investment Program can help fund your startup
This "Ask Me Anything" session was hosted by the all-star team who runs the Google for Startups Accelerator: Voice AI. The team fielded questions from startups and investors around the world who are interested in building businesses based on voice technology. Check out the recording of this event here. The day after the AMA session, the 2021 cohort for the Voice AI accelerator had their demo day - you can catch the recording of their presentations here.
Women in Voice Meetup
We connected with amazing women in Voice AI and discussed ways allies can help women in Voice to be more successful while building a more inclusive ecosystem. It was hosted by Leslie Garcia-Amaya, Jessica Dene Earley-Cha, Karina Alarcon, Mike Bifulco, Cathy Pearl, Toni Klopfenstein, Shikha Kapoor & Walquiria Saad
Smart home developer Meetups
One of the perks of I/O being virtual this year was the ability to connect with students, hobbyists, and developers around the globe to discuss the current state of Smart Home, as well as some of the upcoming features. We hosted 3 meetups for the APAC, Americas, and EMEA regions and gathered some great feedback from the community.
Assistant Google Developers Experts Meetup
Every year we host an Assistant Google Developer Expert meetup to connect and share knowledge. This year we were able to invite everyone who is interested in building for Google Assistant to network and connect with one another. At the end several attendees came together at the Assistant Sandbox for a virtual photo!
Thanks for reading! To share your thoughts or questions, join us on Reddit at r/GoogleAssistantDev.
Follow @ActionsOnGoogle on Twitter for more of our team's updates, and tweet using #AoGDevs to share what you’re working on. Can’t wait to see what you build!