Google launches ‘smarter' Assistant with updated speech processing

Users of the Pixel 4 phone will be able to use just voice commands to navigate large parts of their device, the tech giant said.

The AI-powered Google Assistant can now open apps and find photos using just voice commands thanks to an update to its speech processing.

Google has said that beginning on Friday, users of its Pixel 4 phone will be able to use just voice commands to navigate large parts of their device in a manner previously not possible through the built-in virtual helper.

The update to the Assistant will allow users to launch apps simply by using phrases such as “open YouTube”, and move around within apps by following up with commands such as “show me videos of yoga classes”.

The technology giant said its virtual helper was now also able to better understand context, so users can make contextual comments while looking at a photo or website such as “send this to John” and the Assistant will understand to send the image or website link to the named contact.

The new Assistant can also be used to quickly search photos, Google said, with users able to follow-up commands such as “show me my photos from Tokyo” with commands such as “the ones with food”.

Earlier this year, Google announced these changes were coming to its smart assistant, as part of an update which sees more processing of voice commands done on a user’s device rather than being sent to the cloud to be computed, which the firm says also makes the Assistant faster in its responses.

For now, the update is only available to Pixel 4 users, Google’s flagship smartphone which launched in the autumn.

But Google has announced the broader roll-out of its Portrait Blur photography feature to other Pixel devices as part of the same update.

This enables users to add background blur to older photos they’ve already taken, as well as using it to take new pictures.

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