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Google Assistant gets John Legend’s voice plus more from Google I/O

The top updates are coming to Google's digital assistant later this year

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Google Assistant is getting a voice make-over to make it sound more human in both responses and speech patterns — and simplify how you connect to things around you at home. Here are some of the top updates Google announced at its Google I/O event, and plan to bring to Google Assistant later this year.

Smart home

You'll be able to direct some of your smart home devices — without having to say the brand name of that item. Starting with smart home appliances from Whirlpool, you'll just say, "OK Google, preheat the oven to 350 degrees," for example. (That also happens to be the optimum temperature for chocolate chip cookies, in case you'd like to know.) Google Home will also eventually be able to interface with Kitchen Aid and Maytag appliances.

People will also be able to ask Google to do two things at once. For example, today if you want both the lights on and oven preheated you have to say: "Hey Google, preheat the oven," and then say a second sentence about the lights. Now you'll be able ask for the two at one time — and Google should know to do them both.

Natural chatter

Google Assistant is also going to be better at carrying on more natural sounding conversations. These will come through a new feature that allows you to talk with Google Assistant without having to constantly say, "Hey Google." Well, you'll have to say it just once but then, from there, you can keep chatting the digital voice assistant.

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New voices

Six new voices are on the way to Google Assistant — including that of musician John Legend. While Legend won't be the default speaking voice for Google's voice assistant, it will be heard in "certain contexts," said Google CEO Sundar Pichai at Google I/O.

Legend and the other voices will be heard through both Google Assistant on smartphones and smart home speakers this year. Legend's wife Chrissy Teigan tweeted later in the day, "I don't even need human John anymore."

Learn your manners

We all know that in this digital world, etiquette can go out the window. But a new feature called "Pretty Please" is on its way. If Google Assistant hears you say "Please," it will respond by thanking you — a nice addition for families hoping to get their children to learn their manners.

Tasks

Google's adding a feature called "Google Duplex," which will turn the A.I. almost into a true assistant. Ask it to book a table at a restaurant, and Google Assistant will call — and talk to the person on the other end, even adding in phrases like "mmmhmmm," as it gets you a table. (You hope.) This feature will also presumably be able to work with other phone requests, such as making a hair cut appointment.

Don't forget to check out The GearBrain, our new compatibility checker which will show you what works with Google Home and Google Home Mini.

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