The Google Assistant Gets Improved Privacy Controls, Sticky Notes, and More

Google CES 2020 Playground Slide
Google

Google kicked off CES 2020 by announcing new features coming to the Google Assistant. Although the company focused on the user-facing features coming later this year in its announcement, the star of the show was the improved privacy controls that make it even easier to manage voice recordings stored on Google’s servers.

Improved Privacy Features

Any time that you say “OK Google,” “Hey Google,” or your Google Assistant device thinks you’re talking to it, a recording of what’s said will automatically get sent to the Silicon Valley company to be analyzed. You can opt-out of its data collection, but the easiest way to delete recordings is by asking the Assistant to do it for you.

As you can see in the above video, Google is making it even easier for you to narrow down which recordings are sent to the company. For example, in addition to the old, “Hey Google delete all recordings from last month,” you can now say, “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you.” With that, you can delete the last thing the Assistant recorded.

Google is also making the Assistant capable of answering questions about your account’s privacy. You can ask your device if it’s storing your recordings, how the company is protecting your privacy, and more. These changes are available today, but might take a couple of days to reach everyone.

Google Assistant Screen Reader

Next, let’s talk about the Assistant’s advancing speech technology. Last year, the company showed off a live translation feature that could be used at hotels, museums, and elsewhere called Interpreter Mode that makes it easier for foreigners that speak a different language to talk with staff. Google is now expanding that language understanding technology to the web.

As seen above, you can ask the Google Assistant to read the text on a webpage for you. In addition to walking you through the page, reading each word as you scroll, you can have the voice assistant translate the text into a different language.

Sticky Notes

Google Smart Display Sticky Notes
Google

Those who share a Smart Display with the rest of their family are going to love the next feature: sticky notes. As the name applies, this upcoming feature lets anyone with access to a Nest Hub Max or other Assistant-powered display to leave notes for others to read. The feature is a great way to communicate a message to multiple family members without the worry of it being forgotten behind a wall of text messages.

The sticky notes feature should be available later this year.

Speed Dial Using a Smart Display

Google Smart Display Household Contacts
Google

In case you forgot or didn’t know, you can place phone and video calls using smart displays running Assistant. To make it easier to reach your favorite contacts, the company is adding a “household contacts” feature. As seen in the above photo, once set up, you’ll be able to say “Hey Google Call Babysitter” or tap on the quick-access on-screen card.

Again, Google didn’t give a specific timeline for household contacts except to say that it will be available later this year.

Assistant is Coming to Even More Devices

The Google Assistant is now on over one billion devices, is used by over 500 million users every month, and is available in more than 90 countries. Those numbers are impressive, but Google doesn’t plan to slow down.

Throughout 2020, Google expects to see the Assistant added to more headphones, speakers, smart displays, TVs, and cars than ever before. Some of the companies releasing new hardware with the voice assistant include Acer, Aftershokz, Anker Innovations, Belkin, Cleer, Harman Kardon, Konka, JBL, Lenovo, Philips, Seiki, LG, TCL, Hisense, Volvo, and BMW.

Justin Duino Justin Duino
Justin Duino is the Managing Editor at How-To Geek. He has spent the last decade writing about Android, smartphones, and other mobile technology. In addition to his written work, he has also been a regular guest commentator on CBS News and BBC World News and Radio to discuss current events in the technology industry. Read Full Bio »

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