Google Assistant logo.

Google is making Assistant and Actions more widely available around the world, with a particular focus on Android Go and KaiOS.

Google says tens of millions of users rely on these two platforms in more than 100 countries. In fact, at MWC 2019, Google’s VP of Business and Operations, Jamie Rosenberg, said more than “50 percent of entry-level devices are now activating on Go edition.” He added that Android One activations had grown “more than 250 percent year-over-year.”

Google’s goal is now to make it easier for people to take advantage of Google Assistant’s voice-command features. The search giant is approaching this task from multiple directions.

Google Assistant improves Indic and multilingual support

To get things started, Google has expanded its support of Indian languages to a total of eight. Google launched Assistant in Marathi last summer and this week added Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, and Urdu.

Users can easily switch to one of these languages with a quick, “Ok Google, talk to me in Tamil” command. Given the number of phones aimed at the Indian market, this is a welcome development.

Moreover, Google has improved the scale of Assistant’s bilingual functionality. When it first launched, Assistant could easily switch back and forth between English, Spanish, German, French, Japanese, and Italian. This week, Google has added Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Korean, Norwegian, and Swedish to the mix. Google says people can select any pair from this set and transition from one to the other when needed. This is particularly helpful in households that speak two languages.

Taking action

Google Actions are on deck for expansion, as well. Actions will reach Android Go and KaiOS in the next few months, according to Google.

Android Go is a reduced version of Android meant to run on very-low-cost smartphones. KaiOS is based on HTML and powers inexpensive feature phones.

Google is asking its developer partners to prepare for the expansion to Go and Kai. It has a simulator on deck so developers will be able to test their Actions on Android Go smartphones and KaiOS feature phones. The only real limitation faced by KaiOS devices will be if or when an Action requires touchscreen input.

One key upgrade for KaiOS users will be voice typing. This will save a lot of thumbs the cramp-inducing effort of typing out messages on numeric keypads.

KaiOS on a feature phone.

Assistant and Actions in Messages and Google Maps should help both KaiOS and Android Go. For example, Google says more locally relevant actions on in the works thanks to the efforts of select developers. An app writer called Hello English will soon make it possible for Hindi speakers to take English lessons, while Where Is My Train adds real-time locations and times — all of which are now accessible via voice.

Google asserts that Assistant’s reach has grown. Assistant was everywhere during CES earlier this year, and is appearing on more phones thanks to dedicated hardware buttons and voice commands. With millions of users in India, Assistant is set to spread even further.

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