Google Assistant Levels Up

In the last few months, Google has rolled out several features to position Google Assistant as your go-to for quickly completing tasks on mobile devices. Memory, which is in testing with employees, allows Android users to use voice commands to save anything from pictures and links to screenshots and reminders. April’s Assistant updates let users find their phones with their Nest speaker or smart displays, as well as automatically fill out payment information on the Google Android app for food pickup. Up until now, most of these voice experiences require users to invoke the wake word “Hey Google.” But this week, the company has been testing a new feature where mobile users can manage alarms and timers without using a wake word — functionality that Google smart display owners have already been enjoying. By eliminating the traditional wake word in these instances, tech companies do open the door to questions about just how many phrases their assistants are passively listening for, and under what circumstances. 

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Google’s Guacamole

Google is testing a new feature — dubbed ‘Guacamole’ — on the Google Android app that would allow users to answer calls and manage alarms and timers without saying “Hey Google.” Users would be able to say “stop,” “snooze,” “answer/decline call.” Additionally, in October, Google tested a feature that triggered the Assistance with proximity. These possible updates show that Google is investing in making voice experiences and tasks as frictionless as possible. Although the elimination of a wake word would enable quicker interactions, privacy concerns on what the smart speaker is monitoring still remain. More on CNET

Assistant Learns New Lessons

Google released two new updates for the Assistant. First, users can teach the Assistant to say their name correctly by recording the correct pronunciation. Previously, they had to spell their name phonetically. Second, the Assistant now has more contextual awareness around setting timers and alarms. For example, it can detect timers by the order they are set (i.e. “Cancel my third timer”) without the user having to say the specific name of the timer, and it can understand when you make a mistake (i.e. “Can you set a timer for 7…no, 10 minutes?”). These features, in addition to new capabilities rolled out recently, position the Assistant to really master these “easy,” high-frequency tasks. More on The Verge

Yes, I’d Like to Hear More

Interactive voice ad company Instreamatic recently raised $6.1 million in Series A funding. Instreamatic powered the testing of voice-enabled ads on Pandora, allowing listeners to speak to the ad to either skip or listen to it. This novel format is gaining traction because brands can analyze if listeners are actually engaging with the spot — Instreamatic’s voice ads have an average engagement rate of 12%, which is far higher than the 0.6% average CTR of mobile ads. As voice ads pair with customization and conversational capabilities, we expect more brands to incorporate these ads into their media plans. More on TechCrunch

Emerging Tech Stories

  • Google’s Hospitality. Volara and Guest Supply are partnering to bring customized Google Nest Hub smart displays to Guest Supply’s hotel clients.
  • The Greenroom. Spotify renamed Locker Room to ‘Spotify Greenroom,’ officially expanding its social audio offerings to compete with Clubhouse.
  • House Hunting. Digital real estate marketplace company DOSS launched its voice assistant that provides information on house listings, mortgage applications, and more.

Stats Don’t Lie

60% of smart speaker owners and/or smart display owners own at least one smart home device. (data via Parks Associates)

58.8% of consumers have been using their smart speakers more during the pandemic. (data via Voicebot.ai)

How Voice Technology Can Help Farmers Cultivate Growth

As global food production continues to climb, farmers face unprecedented growing demand as well as unpredictable climate conditions. Voice tech, when paired with AgTech infrastructure and decisional intelligence, emerges as a ripe tool for agricultural professionals to cater to their crops’ needs in real time.

Read more here.