Google is changing the Google Assistant, removing and changing dozens of features that some of you may have become accustomed to. Google said these changes are aimed to “focus on quality and reliability,” adding it will “ultimately make it easier to use Assistant across devices,” the company wrote.
With these changes, Google also has laid off hundreds of employees who worked on Google Assistant. It makes you wonder if AI will be the future and overtake Google Assistant. Although we know Bard is coming to the Google Assistant.
The changes. Here is a list of changes coming to the Google Assistant starting on January 26:
- Playing and controlling audiobooks on Google Play Books with your voice. You can still cast audiobooks from your mobile device.
- Setting or using media alarms, music alarms, or radio alarms on Google Assistant enabled devices. You can create a custom Routine that has similar behavior or use a standard alarm.
- Accessing or managing your cookbook, transfering recipes from device to device, playing an instructional recipe video, or showing step-by-step recipes. You can use Google Assistant to search for recipes across the web and YouTube.
- Managing a stopwatch on Smart Displays and Speakers. You can still set timers and alarms.
- Using your voice to call a device or broadcast a message to your Google Family Group. You can still broadcast to devices in your home.
- Using your voice to send an email, video or audio message. You can still make calls and send text messages.
- Rescheduling an event in Google Calendar with your voice. You can still schedule a new event.
- Using App Launcher in Google Assistant driving mode on Google Maps to read and send messages, make calls, and control media. You can still use voice control on Google Maps the same way.
- Asking to schedule or hear previously scheduled Family Bell announcements. You can create a custom Routine that has similar behavior.
- Asking to meditate with Calm. You can still ask for meditation options with media providers such as YouTube.
- Voice control for activities will no longer be available on Fitbit Sense and Versa 3 devices. You’ll need to use the buttons on your device to start, stop, pause, and resume activities. You can still voice control activities on Pixel Watches.
- Viewing your sleep summaries will only be available on Google Smart Displays. You can still ask for sleep details by voice on third-party smart clocks.
- Calls made from speakers and Smart Displays will not show up with a caller ID unless you’re using Duo.
- Viewing the ambient “Commute to Work” time estimates on Smart Displays. You can still ask for commute times and get directions by voice.
- Checking personal travel itineraries by voice. You can still ask for flight status.
- Asking for information about your contacts. You can still make calls to your contacts.
- Asking to take certain actions by voice, such as send a payment, make a reservation, or post to social media. You can still ask Assistant to open your installed apps.
There are also changes coming to the Google App, they include:
- Microphone icon will trigger Google Search results instead of the Assistant
- Saying “Hey Google” or long pressing the home or power button on Android phones or opening the Google Assistant app on iOS will still work
- The microphone button in the Pixel Search bar will activate Google voice search, not the Assistant
Layoffs. With these changes, Google has laid off hundreds of employees working on Google Assistant. Google said it is restricting the company from integrating new AI technologies. The layoffs impact Google employees working in core engineering, devices, and services, those working on Pixel, Fitbit, Nest, and, of course, the Google Assistant.
Why we care. It does seem like this might be a win for core search, but we all know that more AI technologies and features loom in the future. How will those new technologies impact Google Search? Will it be new Google Search Generative Experience or something else.
Hang tight, 2024 will be an interesting year in Search.