Google Assistant Gains Household Contacts and Group Call Features
Google is adding a voice-enabled speed dial feature to Google Assistant called household contacts. Anyone on a Google account for a smart speaker or smart display can then call those people with a single voice request or tap on a smart display screen. Google simultaneously debuted the ability for Nest Hub Max owners to make group video calls with a request to Google Assistant via Google’s Duo and Meet mobile apps.
Until now, calling people on their Nest smart speakers through Google Assistant required setting up the Voice Match identification and saved the information in their own contact list. The household contacts feature lets a whole home share a few contacts so that there’s no need for every person to have someone’s number or for a child to have to set up the Voice Match system. Instead, whoever set up the Google account on the smart speaker or smart display can designate those numbers as available for anyone to call, although the recipient will see the primary account owner’s name appear.
The new group call feature extends those chat to multiple people at once. To set up the group call, users have to put the contacts they want in a group on the Duo mobile app. Then, after asking Google Assistant to make a group call, the list of groups created by the user will appear on the screen and they can tap the one they want to bring together. Those who answer will appear on the screen for the call. Thanks to the smart display’s auto-framing feature, the initial caller can stay in view the whole time while moving around. Google highlighted the Nest Hub Max as a device to use for group calls, but Google Assistant can set up the same shared Duo calls on Lenovo’s smart displays, the LG XBOOM smart display, and the JBL Link View.
“With group video calling on Nest Hub Max, you can now bring the whole family together, spontaneously check in with your siblings or host a weekly happy hour with friends for up to 32 people,” Google explained in a blog post. “Google Assistant and Nest have always made it easy to connect with friends and family—and now, the more the merrier.”
On the professional side, Google Assistant can also create large meetings of up to 100 people through Google Meet. Limited for now to the Nest Hub Max smart display, users can ask Google Assistant to start a meeting and, after filling in the meeting code, join in. If the meeting details are already in a connected Google Calendar event, the user only has to ask Google Assistant to “join my next meeting” in order to jump into the call. For companies interested in setting up these larger meetings, there’s a beta specifically for G Suite accounts to hose work meetings on a Nest Hub Max.
Though the announcement doesn’t explicitly mention the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, it’s hard not to see the extra appeal of easier group calls and meetings at a time when offices are mostly closed, and there are limited in-person social gatherings. That may have accelerated Google’s timetable, but the new features also gel with the company’s expansive approach to growing its smart home features through Nest. Google recently revised the Nest Aware subscription service and native support for sensors like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. And, while the household contacts make it less critical for some calls, the newly enhanced setup process for Voice Match makes it more secure and accurate, while adding it to all compatible devices. Google has even begun a pilot program that augments voice-enabled purchases with Voice Match.