For all of its intelligence and ability, the Google Assistant – and other voice assistants too, to be fair – has always struggled to pronounce some names.
This can be an annoyance both when the Assistant is speaking to you directly, but also when you ask it to call or message a contact, or when it announces an incoming call or message from someone with a name that is tricky to pronounce.
Previously, the workaround has been to spell the name in a way that tricks the Google Assistant into pronouncing it correctly, but then of course your contact names are spelled wrong. Thankfully, Google is about to roll out a fix. Announced this week and rolling out in the next few days, the new function lets you teach the Google Assistant how to say names correctly.
Once the new system has rolled out, all you have to do is pick a contact from your Google contacts list, then say the name. The Assistant will listen to this then teach itself how to copy your pronunciation. Google says the recording is not saved anywhere once the Assistant has learnt what to say. This has the benefit of Google Assistant saying names correctly, but also understanding when you use that contact's name in a command.
Google said in a blog post: "Assistant will listen to your pronunciation and remember it, without keeping a recording of your voice. This means Assistant will be able to better understand you when you say those names, and also be able to pronounce them correctly."
The feature will at first be available in English, but Google says it hopes to expand to more languages soon. From a smart home perspective, we hope Google will expand this pronunciation learning feature to the names of devices in the home. A smart plug named after the person whose bedroom it is in, for example.
Google has also announced improvements to the way Assistant handles alarms and timers, claiming that, once the update has rolled out, that it can respond "nearly 100 percent accurately to alarms and timer tasks." Over time, Google says this ability will be expanded to other Assistant use cases. Google recognizes that the Assistant "should adapt to your way of talking, not require you to say exactly the right words in the right order."