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Google Assistant begins talking with your other apps

by Justin Herrick | February 26, 2018February 26, 2018 3:00 pm PST

The digital assistant built by Google is readying itself for what developers can do to make users’ lives easier.

New languages, fewer lines of code, app integration, and enhanced location queries are available to anyone making apps for Google Assistant. Last week the company announced a number of consumer-facing updates for its digital assistant, and this week it’s all about developers. Google wants to expand quickly as the arms race with Amazon’s Alexa heats up.

The biggest announcement for developers is the ability to link together Google Assistant and third-party apps. If done successfully, users can complete tasks and activities just by talking to the Google Assistant. Currently, Google Assistant can tap into an app and retrieve select information but not actually get much done unless it directs you to that app. The change would move data between Google Assistant’s feed and apps for seamless integration.

Google’s example is with SpotHero, an app for booking a parking spot. The user purchased a parking reservation and was able to see the item in the digital assistant’s feed. Most details were shown, and the user could jump right into the specific location on SpotHero for a regular in-app view.

With the help of the Google Places API, the askForPlace conversation helper has been introduced. It allows Google Assistant to understand location-based queries in the middle of a conversation. For developers, this removes the need for constant location requests.

The example provided for this comes from Uber. A user asks to be dropped off at a restaurant near their home, so Google Assistant asks if it can check the home address saved on Google Maps. After the user confirms, Google Assistant can pinpoint locations and suggest them as needed. Rather than requesting the user’s location several times, Uber allows Google to jump in, identify the location, and provide that to Uber to continue the conversation.

Google also added seven languages for Actions, the developer platform part of Google Assistant. The list includes Hindi, Thai, Indonesian, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Dutch. So the number of supported languages is now sixteen with more to be added throughout 2018.

It’s expected that Google Assistant will be accessible on “95 percent of all eligible Android phones worldwide” by the end of the year. The catch, though, is that Google’s digital assistant is unavailable on most of the 2 billion Android devices roaming the world.

Only devices with Android 6.0 Marshmallow and above can access it, so achieving that amount of accessibility may not be that impressive.


Justin Herrick

Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...

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