Google Assistant Will Add Customized, Proactive Reminder Feature to Smart Speakers and Displays
Google Assistant will soon be much more proactive and specific in giving reminders to users, according to a report from Android Police. The upcoming Family Bell feature lets users set up custom alarms, including some pre-sets, that the voice assistant will read out from any of your chosen smart speakers and displays.
While the Family Bell feature looks like just another way of setting a timer or alarm, it takes advantage of aspects of Google Assistant and smart homes that make it stand out. For one, the voice assistant saying out loud the specific reason for the alert would likely be harder to ignore than just another annoying sound. The feature appears to come with a bunch of pre-set reminder options for meals, sleep, studying, and exercise. Many of them are phrased with jokes or rhymes like, “Get off that chair, time for some fresh air,” and “Time for bed. Remember, sleeping is a time machine to breakfast.” The voice assistant will also accept custom text for the reminders, giving it added flexibility.
Once the time and days of the week are chosen, the user can also customize where it will play. The existing version apparently can only pick one speaker for each announcement, though a notification will also pop up on the account owner’s phone. It’s likely Google will make it possible to group multiple speakers together. Enabling Family Bell to play on any smart speaker connected to an account is also what makes the feature more than just an alarm. Parents can enlist Google Assistant in reminding kids to both do homework and take breaks for food and stretching, or people can make sure they are reminded about not only when to take medicine, but which medicine they are supposed to take at that time.
The Family Bell feature appears to use alarm and text-to-speech tech already embedded in Google Assistant, but its appearance now feels very apropos for this moment. Lockdowns and limited outdoor activity can easily make days blend together without some external way of breaking up the hours with at least a rudimentary schedule. The way users can make alarms for other people also makes the voice assistant seem more proactive than is standard. Prompting someone to go to bed or complete a task without specifically asking the AI to do so makes Family Bell feel different from another alarm clock.
Reminding people to take their medicine and what their medicine is, in particular, is reminiscent of some of the healthcare-focused smart devices like the WellBe voice assistant-powered smart speaker built by Handsfree Health, the robotic companion and pill dispenser Pria, designed by Pillo Health and Stanley Black & Decker, and LifePod, a smart speaker with designed to help aging or socially isolated people, including prompting conversations about health routines. The major voice assistant platforms have been slow to add unsolicited conversational starters, probably in part because of the concern people have about their privacy around voice assistants. Still, if Google keeps exploring this kind of feature, Google Assistant may end up starting far more conversations.