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Google's Adding New Conversational Skills to Google Assistant

By Tom Pritchard on at

The Google I/O keynote is happening right now, and as expected one of the topics of discussion is Google Assistant, the virtual AI that lives inside Google-affiliated gadgets. Assistant is getting some new features to help with the whole conversation side of things, making life easier for everyone using it.

The main focus of Assistant's upgrades are to make conversing with your AI helper easier and more conversational. 'Continued Conversation' lets you continually talk to Google without having to keep saying "Hey Google" to wake it up every time you want to add something. Using machine learning Google will also be able to understand different questions, even if you've strung them together. On top of that, like Amazon is doing with the Echo, Google is adding positive reinforcement for kids asking Google questions. 'Pretty Please' is a response to complaints that AI assistants are ruining kids' manners, so by asking Google Assistant something nicely (like saying please), the AI will thank the speaker for being so nice about it.

If you're bored of the standard voice, Google will also be adding six new voices (of multiple genders) over the coming weeks, bringing your grand total up to eight.

Finally Google showed off an incredible-looking feature called Google Duplex, which had Assistant make real-life phone calls (pre-recorded) - including a call to reserve a table at a local restaurant and making an appointment at a hair salon. Amazingly the assistant was able to talk and respond in real time, even throwing in those weird verbal ticks we all say like "hmmm, mmmmm" etc. If it does what Google promises, it's both brilliant and terrifying at the same time.

This is going to be rolling out as an experimental (read: far less than perfect) in the coming weeks. Hopefully you won't be able to corrupt it to make prank calls.