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How to use and customize Google Assistant on your phone or Google Home

Google Pixel assistant

  • Google Assistant is a smart assistant designed to help you answer questions and perform numerous tasks.
  • Google Assistant comes pre-installed on most Android phones and Google Homes, but can be installed on other systems as well, such as the iPhone.
  • You can go into your device’s settings to customize your Google Assistant, allowing it to automate even more tedious tasks.
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It’s safe to say that we’re in the midst of a smart assistant revolution. Since Apple first released its smart assistant, Siri, in spring 2011, competitors like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google have followed suit with their own virtual assistants.

While there are a set of standard skills that you can safely find in nearly any smart assistant — such as searching the internet or setting a timer — not all smart assistants are the same.

And recent additions to Google’s assistant may just give it a competitive edge that other smart assistants lack.

What is Google Assistant?

The latest evolution of the smart assistant Google originally launched in 2012 with Google Now, Google Assistant is the tech company’s AI-powered smart assistant.

In a playful nod to their search engine, Google markets Google Assistant as a user’s “personal Google” — built to help them navigate their own busy lives the way Google might help them navigate a busy web.

Native to most Android phones, as well as Google Home devices, Google Assistant allows users to use both voice and text commands.

How to use Google Assistant

  • For users with an Android phone or a Google Home, all that’s needed to summon Google Assistant is saying “OK Google” or “Hey Google” and the assistant will pop up at the bottom of your screen. Or for Pixel 2 or Pixel 3 users, simply squeezing the bottom of your phone will work as well.
  • As for non-Android users, it’s as simple as downloading the Google Assistant app. From there, users can connect the assistant with their primary Google account to give it access to their calendar and important emails — like restaurant or flight reservations.

HowCanIHelp_GAssistant

  • Thanks to its integration with Android devices and Google accounts, users can also use Google Assistant when away from their Google Home or even their phones. Google Assistant is compatible with Android Auto vehicles, wearables like Google’s smartwatch and Pixel Buds, Nest security products and a variety of non-Google smart displays. These devices also all respond to the standard “OK Google” or “Hey Google” call.

What you can do with Google Assistant

  • Once Google Assistant is up and running, what exactly can you do with it? Similar to other smart assistants, you can program Google Assistant to give you news briefings (on-demand or at scheduled times), answer questions like “What’s the weather like?” or “When does the sun set today?,” and play music from Spotify, as well as YouTube Music. Users can also use Google Assistant to cast TV or movies to Chromecast TVs.

Sunset_GAssistant

  • With its access to a user’s Google calendar and emails, Google Assistant can also give the user a briefing on what their schedule for the day ahead looks like when asked “Hey Google, what’s my day look like?”
  • Google Assistant is also equipped with some cutting edge skills that competitors like Amazon’s Alexa have yet to replicate, including its built-in interpreter. By asking, “Hey Google, be my Spanish interpreter” Google Assistant can be used in real time to translate a conversation where both people are speaking a different language. For example, if ordering a paella in Spain, Google Assistant could translate both your request to Spanish as well as the server’s reply to English.
  • Users can also use Google Assistant to help screen calls and avoid potential scam calls. When receiving a phone call users can choose to answer or reject the call, like usual, or they can choose to have Google Assistant pickup the call the screen it. Like listening to someone leave a voicemail, the user can listen to Google Assistant ask why the person is calling and based on the response — genuine or seemingly from a script — can choose to pick up the call or not.

ScreenCall_GAssistant

  • Google is steadily rolling out a new feature for Google Assistant, called Duplex, that is unlike anything seen in other devices. First demonstrated at I/O in May 2018, Duplex allows Google Assistant to not only dial calls for the user — which Google Assistant and most other smart assistants can already do — but to actually speak on the call as well. In the demonstration, the team had Duplex successfully call and schedule a haircut. Because of the lifelike-ness of the AI’s voice, as well as its use of natural pauses in speech, the hairdresser on the other end had no idea they were speaking to a machine.

How to optimize Google Assistant

  • To make sure you’re getting the most out of your Google Assistant, try exploring the settings and toggling on and off extra options. For example, in the “My Day” briefing you can select if you’d like to hear the weather, the news, and or a traffic report. You can also select what kind of news you’d like to hear to stop Google from playing others.
  • And, as with any great assistant, part of utilizing Google Assistant is to let it take over tedious tasks to save you time. For example, instead of fumbling to take a selfie yourself simply ask “OK Google, take a selfie” and the assistant will open the camera for you and set a 3-second time for the perfect picture. Similarly, users can ask Google Assistant to turn on or off their phone’s flashlight hands free.
  • Another unique feature to take advantage of with assistant on your smartphone is something called Lens. By clicking the lens icon within the Google Assistant app the assistant will launch the phone’s camera and help users learn more about what they’re seeing. For example, if the user points their camera at a plant or dog the assistant can pull up information on the species or breed.

LensDog_GAssistant

Related coverage from How To Do Everything: Tech:

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  • How to set up and customize Google Alerts to stay updated on the topics that matter most to you

  • How to set up and use Google Voice on your computer or mobile device

  • How to create and customize a Google Form for polls and questionnaires

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