Google Assistant Adds New International Voice Options
Google Assistant has added a new voice option for nine of its international languages. The new voice options will be available for Google Assistant in German, French, Dutch, Norwegian, Italian, Korean, Japanese, British English, and Indian English.
Google Assistant currently speaks more than 30 languages, but the voice options for those languages have been severely limited. The only exception has been U.S. English, which offers a choice of 11 voices. Now, Google Assistant users of seven other languages, and two other English dialects can pick a second option for the voice the digital assistant uses.
The new voices were built using DeepMind’s WaveNet technology to make them sound as much like natural speakers as possible. That naturalism applies to accents, local references, and idioms as well. Users can explore the options in the Google Assistant app. Each voice is denoted by a color, red or orange, without a descriptive label beyond that, and those setting up Google Assistant for the first time will randomly be assigned one of the options at first.
“We’ve learned that people enjoy choosing between voices to find the one that sounds right to them, and we think it’s important to present these voices to you without any labels,” Google Assistant product manager Brant Ward said in the announcement.
Google Assistant defaults to the local language where it is set up. For English, that includes accent variations like Australian and British. Google Assistant has often been at the forefront of understanding spoken accents, so improving the variety of voices in different languages could lead to even more regional variation. The new voice options are all generated artificially and don’t include John Legend or any of the other celebrities who have recorded audio for Google Assistant.
Google Assistant Options
The new voices are just the latest in a recent series of additions to Google Assistant that the company has rolled out over the last few months. Most recently, Google announced a new Ambient Mode that turns some Android phones into limited smart displays when plugged in and charging. When in Ambient Mode, the Google Assistant on the phone will listen for its wake word and display notifications without needing to be unlocked. The voice assistant is also integrating directly into a car for the first time in a partnership with General Motors.
Many of these new features seem to be leading toward Google’s upcoming hardware presentation event in October. There are already leaks about features to be announced, including a way for Google Assistant to sit on hold during phone calls and alerting the user when a human comes back on the line.