Ex­plor­ing Google As­sis­tant’s best fea­tures

Google’s AI as­sis­tant has learned some new tricks while you weren’t look­ing RYAN WHITWAM re­ports

Android Advisor - - Contents -

Google has had voice search fea­tures in An­droid for years, but when Google As­sis­tant rolled out on the Pixel in Oc­to­ber 2016, every­thing fi­nally came to­gether. It now comes on plenty of An­droid de­vices, and Google has im­proved the plat­form with a raft of new fea­tures. It can be easy to miss these if you don’t ob­ses­sively keep an eye on the news, so here they are in one place.

1. Ex­plore menu

Google used to hide all of As­sis­tant’s fea­tures in a se­ries of es­o­teric, buried menus. Now, there’s a much more sen­si­ble way to find out what sort of cool things you can do with As­sis­tant in the Ex­plore menu.

To ac­cess this menu, open As­sis­tant and tap the blue drawer icon in the up­per right cor­ner. Here, you can find all the ser­vices sup­ported by As­sis­tant bro­ken down into cat­e­gories such as So­cial & Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Games & Fun, and more. Each tile links to a full info page where you can see sam­ple com­mands and (if nec­es­sary) link your ac­count.

Check­ing out the Ex­plore menu is the eas­i­est way to keep track of newly added apps and ser­vices. There are also some gen­eral As­sis­tant com­mand sug­ges­tion at the top. You don’t even have to speak

the sug­ges­tions, just tap the bub­ble and they’ll be dropped right into As­sis­tant.

2. Typ­ing to As­sis­tant

Google As­sis­tant first ap­peared in the Allo app, and in that it­er­a­tion, you could in­put text to ‘chat’ with the Google’s bot. But the more pow­er­ful baked-in phone ver­sion of As­sis­tant be­gan its life with only voice in­put. That’s fine when you’re in a sit­u­a­tion where you can talk to your phone, but voice dic­ta­tion isn’t al­ways ap­pro­pri­ate. Well, thanks to the re­cent up­date, you can now type your ques­tions and com­mands, too.

To ac­cess the key­board in As­sis­tant, just long­press your home but­ton as you nor­mally would. But in­stead of speak­ing right away, tap the key­board icon in the lower-left cor­ner. As­sis­tant will ex­pand to fill

the screen, and you can be­gin typ­ing. As­sis­tant will re­spond to all the same com­mands that you’d use in a voice-dic­ta­tion sit­u­a­tion, and you’ll also find con­tex­tual sug­ges­tions above the key­board. And be­cause these sug­ges­tions are part of As­sis­tant, they ap­pear no mat­ter which key­board app you’re us­ing.

3. Ed­itable his­tory

Google As­sis­tant used to be a tran­sient ex­pe­ri­ence – what­ever you said to As­sis­tant would be lost to the ether as soon as you left the As­sis­tant UI. But now there’s a full his­tory of your com­mands, and you can edit them too.

To ac­cess your As­sis­tant his­tory, you need only drag up on the over­lay when As­sis­tant pops up. This will drop you into a full-screen in­ter­face that shows your re­cent queries. Scroll up to see every­thing you’ve asked and how As­sis­tant an­swered.

Edit­ing is a snap, too. Long-press on a query, and it will be high­lighted along with As­sis­tant’s re­ply. From there, you can ei­ther delete or edit it. Delet­ing will com­pletely re­move the query (and as­so­ci­ated ac­tiv­ity) from the his­tory. This is just like re­mov­ing some­thing from your Google search his­tory, so it won’t be used to in­form fu­ture search and As­sis­tant pre­dic­tions.

If you choose to edit a query, the query will be dropped into the text field along with an open key­board. You can tap send to im­me­di­ately re­peat the com­mand, or make some changes and send it again. Just note that none of this un­does the ac­tions per­formed when the com­mand was first is­sued.

4. Short­cuts

There are dozens of ser­vices and apps in­te­grated with As­sis­tant al­ready, but some of them get pref­er­en­tial treat­ment. For ex­am­ple, you can tell Google to con­trol your Hue lights di­rectly, but lights con­nected through Homey re­quire you to pref­ace all com­mands with ‘Tell Homey’. It can get a bit te­dious, but short­cuts are here to help.

To cre­ate a short­cut, find the ser­vice you want to have quicker ac­cess to in the Ex­plore tab. There will be an op­tion on the info page to add a new short­cut. The short­cut screen has a box for what you want to say, and one be­low that for what you want As­sis­tant to ac­tu­ally do in re­sponse.

In the top box, in­put what­ever snappy short­cut phrase you want. It tends to work bet­ter if you use the mi­cro­phone but­ton to speak the short­cut. As­sis­tant will some­times put a sam­ple com­mand in the bot­tom

box, but you can change that to the com­mand you want. It has to be the full phrase you’d say to As­sis­tant, in­clud­ing the ‘Tell [X]’ part if needed. Once your short­cut is saved, it’ll work by voice and text.

5. Google Ex­press shop­ping list

Google As­sis­tant has al­ways been able to add items to a shop­ping list, but that list used to live solely in Google Keep. As such, it was just a list. But Google re­cently changed the shop­ping list func­tion­al­ity to plug di­rectly into its Google Ex­press de­liv­ery ser­vice, which could be very use­ful if you use it.

All you have to do is say, “Add [item name] to my shop­ping list.” It will show up in your Google Ex­press

shop­ping list in­stantly. You can ac­cess that list in the Google Ex­press app, or sim­ply say “Show me my shop­ping list”. That takes you to the on­line ver­sion of your list, which can be shared with any of your con­tacts. If you’re a Google Ex­press sub­scriber, you can tap ‘Shop your list’ to get fil­tered search re­sults from sup­ported lo­cal re­tail­ers. Add items to your cart, and you’re done.

As­sis­tant has ex­isted for less than a year, but al­ready it’s learn­ing new tricks and be­com­ing more use­ful. You should give these new fea­tures a shot if you wrote off As­sis­tant when it launched last year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.