Google Home Introduces Continued Conversation Feature in US

Google announced Continued Conversation at Google I/O in May and it is rolling out to users today in the U.S. Continued Conversation is a feature that makes it easier to have a sustained interaction with Google Assistant because you don’t always have to use the wake word prior to every query. Once you invoke Google Assistant by saying the “Hey Google,” or “OK Google” wake word, you can ask multiple questions over multiple turns of conversation without needing to say the wake work again. This is similar to Amazon’s follow-up mode for Alexa that was introduced in March 2018.

Google Home enables this feature by keeping the microphone open for eight seconds after an exchange with the device is complete. During this period, a user can simply ask a question or issue a command such as “set a timer,” with no wake word required.  To close any session and deactivate the microphone during the eight-second period, a user can say, “thank you,” or “stop.” Below is an example of an exchange with Google Assistant from the announcement. Notice that the wake word, “Hey Google,” is only used to initiate the interaction and subsequent questions are asked using natural speech.

So next time you wake up and the skies are grey, just ask “Hey Google, what’s the weather today?”… “And what about tomorrow?”… “Can you add a rain jacket to my shopping list”… “And remind me to bring an umbrella tomorrow morning”…“Thank you!”

When 8-Seconds is Not 8-Seconds

In an interesting twist, Google Home will automatically terminate “if it does not detect any speech,” during the eight-second period according to a Google spokesperson. However, “if it does detect speech it will remain active until it determines the user is done talking. The LEDs will remain illuminated while the Assistant is active.” This means that if you are having a conversation with someone else after using Google Home, the microphone may remain active because it hears you talking.

That could be viewed as a feature or a bug depending on your circumstance. The idea that the microphone stays active clearly adds to convenience if you plan to use Google Assistant again. If you are done with your Google Assistant interaction, but are still talking or the television is on a show with consistent dialogue, it may remain actively listening for some indeterminate time. This is where the “thank you,” and “stop” commands become particularly important.

You Must Activate the Feature in Your Google Assistant App

Continued conversation is not enabled by default. To activate the feature, go into the Google Assistant app and select Assistant Settings > Preferences > Continued Conversation and activate the toggle. This setting will apply to all devices the user has set-up. So, you cannot have your devices in the living room utilize Continued Conversation, but not those in your bedroom unless they are set up under different accounts. Also, even after you enable Continued Conversation, you still need to use the wake word to start an initial interaction.

I have yet to see this update in the iOS app store as yet, but maybe some of your Android folks are seeing it already. Many of these updates historically have been released on a rolling basis so it might be a few hours or a day before this shows up on your device.

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