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Here’s all the Google Assistant news from CES 2019

Here’s all the Google Assistant news from CES 2019
[Photo: courtesy of Google]

Just like last year, Google is trying to make a big splash at the CES tech industry trade show in Las Vegas. Google says its convention center booth is three times bigger than last year’s, and the company has brought along a slew of product announcements in tandem with third-party device makers. As before, the goal is to impress Google’s partners and the public in hopes of getting them to embrace the company’s virtual assistant.

“Last CES was, in a lot of ways, a ‘the Google Assistant has arrived’ kind of moment,” Nick Fox, Google’s head of product and design for Search and Assistant, said in an interview before the show. “This year is really capturing the momentum and forward progress beyond that.”

Here’s a rundown of everything Google is announcing during CES 2019:

  • A smart clock: Google is working with Lenovo on a bedside smart display with a 4-inch touchscreen and clock features such as alarm suggestions and gentle wakeup routines. It’s an answer of sorts to Amazon’s Echo Spot.
  • A new Smart Display: KitchenAid is making a 10-inch, splashproof display for kitchen counters with Google Assistant built in. It’ll function similarly to previous Google-powered Smart Displays, but will have recipes and cooking instructions from Yummly on board.
  • Interpreter mode: Within the next few weeks, you’ll be able to say “Hey, Google, be my Spanish interpreter” to begin real-time translation. Google is also testing this at a handful of hotel concierge desks.
  • Mobile features: With the Google Assistant app on iOS and Android, you’ll soon be able to check into United Airlines flights, book a hotel room, and take notes in outside apps (including Google Keep, Any.do, Todoist, and Bring).
  • Auto-punctuation: When you send a message through Google Assistant on iOS or Android, it will automatically add punctuation so you don’t have to say things like “comma” and “period” while dictating.
  • Google Maps integration: Now you can talk to Google Assistant straight from Google Maps for sending messages, playing music, sharing your arrival time with contacts, and of course getting directions.
  • An ambitious-sounding smart home initiative: Google says it’s previewing something called “Google Assistant Connect,” which will let other companies add Assistant interaction to low-cost hardware. Examples might include an E Ink display that shows calendar or weather information, or an air conditioner that accepts voice commands, with the actual computing offloaded to a separate Google Home speaker. It sounds like very early days for the initiative as Google didn’t announce any specific products.
  • TV integration: Google’s Android TV software is popping up on more television sets, including ones from Sony, Hisense, Philips, TCL, Skyworth, Xiaomi, Haier, Changhong, JVC, and Toshiba. A few of them will even have built-in microphones for Google Assistant voice commands. Samsung TVs will be getting basic Google Assistant integration as well, and Dish Hopper DVRs will let you talk to Google through their voice remotes.
  • No unlock necessary: Users of Google’s Pixel phones can already access Assistant from the lock screen, but Google is now extending the feature to other Android phones. You’ll have to enable this in Google Assistant’s settings menu.

Google already announced this week that Assistant is available on 1 billion devices, and that active users have quadrupled since last January. The company now says Assistant works with 10,000 devices from more than 1,000 home automation brands, up from 1,500 devices and 225 brands last January. That’s still far behind rival Amazon, which announced support for 28,000 devices from 4,500 brands in December, but it’s still an impressive amount of growth, and perhaps a sign that the CES charm offensive is paying off.

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