Google Home Hub Continued Conversation

Google Assistant Based Smart Displays Now Enable Continued Conversation

Google Assistant based smart displays now enable the “Continued Conversation” feature that allows users to make additional requests without having to say the “Hey Google” wake word phrase after they have already activated the device. An example of this is the following scenario:

(1) Me: “Hey Google, what’s the weather today?”

(1a) Lenovo Smart Display with Google Assistant: “Expect rain and snow this morning.”

(2) Me: “What time will the snow start?”

(2a) Lenovo Smart Display: “The snow is expected from 7 AM to 10 AM this morning.”

(3) Me: “What time is it in London?”

(3a) Lenovo Smart Display: “The time in London, UK is 11:25 AM.”

(4) **Then I waited for more than eight seconds and said nothing.**

(5) Me: “Launch, Voicebot Says.”

(5a) Lenovo Smart Display: No answer.

(6) Me: “Hey Google, launch Voicebot Says.”

(6a) Lenovo Smart Display: “Sure. Getting Voicebot Says….This is the Voicebot Daily Update for March 8th, 2019…”

What you see in line (1) above is that I used the “Hey Google,” wake word phrase to activate Google Assistant, which then listened for my question about the weather and responded in line (1a). Then, in line (2), the Continued Conversation feature kept Google Assistant in an active listening mode waiting for another question. For line (2) I didn’t say “Hey Google,” but Google Assistant was still listening and able to answer my question in line (2a). The same sequence was followed in line (3) and (3a).

Line (4) then is important. Continued Conversation originally had an official time-out after eight seconds (more on this below). When I try to make a request in line (5) the Lenovo Smart Display is not listening because it has deactivated Google Assistant and won’t activate it again until I say the “Hey Google,” wake word phrase. In line (6) I start the same request as before, but precede it with the wake word phrase and the Lenovo Smart Display activates Google Assistant to listen to my request and then starts playing the most popular voice industry daily news update, Voicebot Says.

Simply a Convenience, Maybe More Conversational

Continued Conversation has been available on Google Home smart speakers and in Google Assistant on smartphones since June 2018. Amazon introduced a similar feature for its Echo smart speakers and smart displays in March 2018 which it calls “follow-up mode.” It is not clear why Continued Conversation didn’t roll out when the smart displays originally launched given the first arrived a month after the feature was introduced. A Google spokesperson told Voicebot that Continued Conversation started rolling out this week for all smart displays as part of an automatic update which was completed yesterday afternoon. Continued Conversation is only available in the U.S. today, with no indication yet about when it will appear in other markets.

Google often likens features such as Continued Conversation as enabling more natural interactions with Assistant. The Google spokesperson said over email that, “Continued Conversations is an optional setting which lets you have a natural back-and-forth conversation with the Google Assistant without repeating ‘Hey Google’ for each follow-up request.” If you are having a conversation with Bob, you may say “Hey Bob, can you help me with this?” However, once you and Bob are in a conversation and paying attention to each other it is unlikely you would need to say “Hey Bob,” preceding follow-up questions. If you stopped talking for some period of time, you might need to address Bob again to regain his attention. So, there is merit in likening this to making Assistant more similar to a human interaction even if it isn’t necessarily a conversation when all you are doing is issuing requests and asking questions.

An Optional Feature, Shortened Listening Period, and Status Indicator

Two more items of note. Another Google spokesperson has told Voicebot previously that the time-out for continued conversation is eight seconds. In my interactions today I was consistently getting closer to six seconds. So, Google may have tightened the window for Continued Conversations to stay active since it launched in 2018. That is probably a good thing given that if Assistant hears human speech in that Continued Conversation listening period, it often interprets that speech even if not addressed to Google Assistant and then may remain active longer waiting for another interaction.

You can see when the Continued Conversation feature is active on the display when there are four colored dots in the status in the upper left of the screen (see image above). When Google Assistant is speaking, this status area displays the Google Assistant logo. The four dots indicate it is listening and also appear after you say the “Hey Google,” wake word phrase.

Continued Conversation is an optional feature that you can activate by going into your Google Assistant app and selecting Settings > Preferences > Continued Conversation by selecting the toggle. However, if you already have Continued Conversation active for a Google Home smart speaker this appears to be unnecessary. Both my Lenovo Smart Display and the Google Home Hub unboxed this morning had Continued Conversation already active. So, this is linked to your account and not your device.


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