Google lets other device makers customise Assistant in battle with Amazon Alexa

Google lets other device makers customise Assistant in battle with Amazon Alexa
Photo Credit: Reuters
12 Mar, 2018

You can now ask Google Assistant working on a sock-separating machine to line up your drawer with different socks in separate piles. That’s right. In its battle with Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa, Google has added new voice-controlled actions to its Assistant so that it can operate more appliances.

This means manufacturers can now add functions specific to their device. Before this, device makers had to use the same Google Assistant across phones, fridges, lights, and other appliances.

With current improvements, Google Assistant could help organise the sock drawer or bring a cold drink to the user’s couch, apart from what it could do before—playing music, controlling lights and setting timers, according to a blog post by a Google executive.

In fact, users can test a voice-controlled sock sorting robot and a “couch potato-optimized beer ordering system” that Google has actually built, Brad Abrams, product manager at Google Assistant, said in the blog post. 

Abrams said that device makers can extend the Assistant and add ‘native’ functionality specific to their device. “For example, Esquire (magazine) can send you daily ‘wisdom tips’ to start your day off with a little sage advice and you can ask Forbes (magazine) for a 'quote of the day’.”

“Google Assistant will support media playback on speakers and Android phones, giving you access to more audio experiences like longer meditation sessions, relaxing sounds, clips from your favourite TV shows and news briefings. You can also easily pause or replay audio with your voice, or when you’re on your phone, you’ll see a media player you can tap to pause, replay, or even turn the screen off while the audio keeps playing,” Abrams said.

Google’s move to add new features to the Google Assistant comes amid rival Amazon inking partnerships with several companies such as makers of smart cooking stoves, ovens, microwaves, refrigerators and cars for its Alexa device.

In January, Amazon said its voice assistant Alexa would soon start controlling microwaves, smart ovens and refrigerators. Four days later, the company said Alexa would also start interacting with drivers.

Last month, it was reported that Amazon was developing an artificial intelligence-powered chip to bolster devices using Alexa. The report also said that the chip would be able to respond faster by processing more data on the device itself rather than on the cloud.

To stay in the ring, Google last month said it had merged the team of smart home devices maker Nest with its Google hardware group in order to boost the home-automation segment under which voice-controlled gadgets such as Google Home are sold.