We got our first good look at Google Assistant a few months ago at I/O 2016. Sundar Pichai took the stage to talk about the company’s newer, smarter voice assistant, and I must say, I was instantly impressed. On the surface Google Assistant seems to be just like any other chat bot, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s basically a smarter, more chatty version of Google Now.
In case you missed it, Google Allo is finally here, and it does a pretty great job at showcasing what Google Assistant can do. If you’re just now giving Allo a shot and are anxious to master Google Assistant, we’ve got you covered. Here are the top Google Assistant features you need to know.
Subscriptions are more convenient than you might think
I’m sure you’re all aware by now that you can ask Google Assistant simple questions like “What’s the weather like today?” and “How are the Bears doing?” This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as we’ve been able to do this in Google Now for years. Google Assistant takes things one step further with subscriptions.
Instead of having to ask Google Assistant every morning for the weather forecast, you can ‘subscribe’ to weather updates to get this information sent to you automatically. For instance, if you ask Google, “What’s the weather like today?”, you’ll receive a condensed Google Now card with that information. Follow that up with “Send me daily”, and Google Assistant will ask you to choose a time you’d like this information sent to you. Once you respond with your preferred time, Google Assistant will send you the weather forecast every day at that time.
I currently have subscriptions set for weather updates at 8am and NFL news at 8pm, and there are plenty more options to choose from. You can also manage your subscriptions by telling Google Assistant “Show active subscriptions.”
Smart replies will save you time
If you’ve ever used Google Inbox, you’re already aware of the beauty that is Smart Reply. Throughout your conversations, no matter if you’re talking to Google Assistant or to a friend, Google will suggest canned responses based on what it thinks you’re going to say next.
Check out the photo attached above. My wife asked me “What should we have for dinner tonight?” Before I had a chance to respond, Google suggested I might want to say “I don’t know” or even look up nearby restaurants in case I didn’t feel like cooking.
Smart replies will only get better overtime
Oftentimes Google Assistant is spot on with smart replies, but there are hiccups from time to time. When Google Assistant gets it right, though, this feature can save you a ton of time. It’ll only get better overtime, too.
No need for a data connection to say what you need to say
We’ve all been there – you try to perform a Google search on your phone, only to be presented with a nonstop spinning animation followed by a “Can’t reach Google at the moment” message. This means you don’t have an internet connection and you can’t talk to Google, which can be incredibly infuriating at times. With Google Assistant, those days are over.
Well, Google Assistant won’t magically ensure you have an internet connection at all times, but it handles things much better when you don’t. When you’re talking to Google Assistant in a chat, you don’t actually need an internet connection to say what you need to say. Even if you’re offline, just send a message to Google Assistant and let the answer process in the background. After you’re back online you’ll get a notification when the answer is ready for you.
Yes, you can actually send messages to Google Assistant when you don't have internet
It’s safe to say this is a much better situation than how Google search on mobile handles things. This way you can submit what you need to say and get notified later when the connection is better, instead of having to repeat yourself multiple times before realizing you’re offline. This is a small thing, really, but crucial as Google continues to expand into more facets of our lives.
It can recognize images, too
Since Google Assistant is built off Google Now, you’ll find some features that cross over between the two. Assistant can recognize all types of images, similar to how it works in Google Photos or when you perform a reverse image search on Google.
You can send photos to Google Assistant one of two ways – take a picture from within the chat interface or send an existing photo to the chat. If you have something in front of you that needs recognizing, opening your Assistant chat and snapping a quick photo is much easier than doing it the old and inconvenient way.
Similar to Google Photos, Google Assistant uses algorithms to detect what’s going on in the picture. I’ve sent it numerous photos of random things around the house, and it was able to recognize pretty much every one without a hitch. In the photo to the right, you can see it recognized the two action figures in the photo. Unfortunately it didn’t give me any information on PZ-4CO or Ello Asty, but hey, we’ve gotta start somewhere.
And to top it all off, Google Assistant can read QR codes, if you’re into that sort of thing.
All the other little stuff
The full list of what Google Assistant can do is far too long to list in this post. If you’re interested in learning more about what it can do, just say “What can you do?” Google Assistant will respond with a big list of things it’s capable of doing.
If you’re bored and need something to do, Google Assistant will be able to provide you with some fun little games to help pass the time. Just say “Play a game” and you’ll be able to choose from chat games, quiz games, doodle games and classic games. Chat games consists of sending emoji back and forth within the Allo app. All the other options will take you out of Allo and into a separate screen where you can play tic-tac-toe, solitaire, take quizzes, and even play around with Google Doodle mini games that have appeared in the past.
So there you have it, our list of the best Google Assistant features. Have anything you’d like to add? Be sure to speak up in the comments. Oh, and if you have yet to give Google Allo a shot, head to Play Store link below to try it out!