The Google Assistant can now be trusted to complete purchases by recognizing your voice, with no passcode or other biometric information required. The move, which relies on the preexisting Voice Match system, is an important step forward for the Google Assistant, which is now deemed smart enough to know with high certainty who is asking it to make an online purchase.
With this system in place, Google is confident that the Assistant can't be used by a roommate or family member to make unauthorized purchases, or that Google Assistant won't accidentally buy something it heard mentioned on a nearby television by mistake. The system, which is rolling out to users as a limited pilot for now, can, at the start, only be used to make in-app digital purchases and also restaurant orders.
The update – once it is expanded to all users and lets them do more than just order food – brings the Google Assistant into line with Alexa.
Alexa was there first
After a shaky start involving purchases accidentally made by chatting parrots, Amazon's assistant already lets recognized members of a household make purchases with their voices and, if Alexa's voice profile system is set up, without saying a passcode.
However, both systems trade convenience for security, as neither is absolutely foolproof if their extra levels of security and authentication are disabled. Google knows this, and admits during the setting up of its new system: "Use your voice to verify it's you when making a purchase with your Assistant...someone with a similar voice or recording may be able to confirm purchases on devices you're logged into."
Of course, it is unlikely that a scheming family member will record your voice then play it at the nearest Nest Hub to order something from Google Shopping. But smart home technology is sometimes about tradeoffs, balancing passcode-less convenience with absolute security.
Google payments with Voice Match can be switched on only in the Google Assistant app, and not in the Google Home app. To find out whether you are part of the small group of users who have access to this feature, follow these steps:
- Open the Google Assistant app
- Click on your picture on the upper right
- Scroll down to Payments
- There, you should see the option to Confirm with Voice Match. If that's not visible, you don't have the option available to you yet.
Google has these instructions as well, which also include how to turn this option off as well, if people are not entirely comfortable with the feature live on their devices. Again, it should be noted that at the time of writing the new system is limited to a small number of users, and Google has not said when additional people should expect to see the feature live, or not.