LAS VEGAS: GOOGLE HAD an unavoidable presence at this year's CES, and in a bid to justify it, the firm has made a huge number of Assistant-related announcements.
Perhaps the most interesting is Google Assistant Connect, an initiative similar to Amazon's Alexa Connect Kit that makes it easier for third-party manufacturers to create Assistant-powered gadgets without needing to be connected to Google's cloud.
Instead, Assistant Connect devices can use an existing speaker with Google Assistant to deliver content and respond to commands that require cloud computing resources; Google demonstrated this with an e-ink display that can display info such as weather and your calendar.
Another interesting Assistant announcement is auto-translation on smart display speakers, letting the AI helper act as a real-life translator in 27 different languages.
The feature will enable users to have a natural conversation with the speaker acting as the translator automatically; on the Google Home Hub, for example, you can say things such as "hey, Google, help me speak French", and Assistant will show text across the smart display that translates your words as you speak.
Assistant is also coming to Google Maps on both iOS and Android, which as well as allowing you to ask it for directions home, or to nearby restaurants, will also enable you to share their ETA, reply to text messages and play music without closing the navigation window.
In the area of travel, Google announced that Assistant will also soon be able to check you into your flight, which means instead of digging through emails to find your confirmation number, you can bark at the AI helper to "check in to my flight". The service is first launching on United Airlines' domestic flights, so it'll probably be a while until the feature comes to Blighty.
Google also announced that Assistant is getting auto-reply and punctuation when you reply to messages, lock screen access to more Android devices, Assistant for Sonos devices and Samsung smart TVs, better Philips Hue integration, and more things that we're probably forgetting.
We saw some new Assistant hardware at CES too, courtesy of Lenovo which has crammed Google's AI into its new Smart Clock which lets you use your voice to set alarms, play relaxing sounds and to control connected gadgets. The device packs a 4in touchscreen, a mute switch and a USB port. But unlike Google's bedside companion, it doesn't come with a baked-in camera, so you may feel more comfortable sleeping beside it. µ
INQ's pick of the best earphones on the market right now
Must be something going on beneath the surface
2020 is going to be digital carnage
It's a great shame if it strudel