Google Assistant Adds In-App Shortcuts, Personalizes Food Preferences to Android
Google Assistant can open and run limited actions within apps on Android devices with its newly revamped Shortcuts feature, as first spotted by Android Police. Shortcuts first appeared in 2017 but were eventually superseded by the more flexible Routines option, which can start multiple tasks with a single command. The new version streamlines Routines back into Shortcuts. Users can ask Google Assistant to perform a task within an app without first asking the voice assistant to open it, much like the identically named feature offered by Apple’s Siri voice assistant.
The new feature isn’t universal yet but appears to be a server-side update to Google Assistant’s settings. The Shortcuts menu offers examples like starting a tweet, sending an email, or alerting someone to your location. The apps with shortcuts available include several from Google as well as Instagram and Twitter. The menu lets the user edit or remove the default voice commands to whatever they want.It is very much like Siri Shortcuts, albeit with even fewer options for apps and the request will only open the secondary screen, opening the Tweet window but not beginning transcription. But, the simplicity is likely part of the point as it encourages another use for Google Assistant, even in non-power users. The fact that Google hasn’t made a big deal about Shortcuts yet suggests it is still under development. More features and optional layers of complexity may be on the way.
The Shortcuts are also very similar to the existing Action Blocks feature for Android. Action Blocks also let users create pre-set Google Assistant commands and shortcuts. The blocks also have names and an image on the device’s home screen to go with the voice command. They’re closer to Routines in that they can handle multiple actions within a single block. Action Blocks, however, were designed as an accessibility tool as part of Google’s DIVA initiative to make it easier for people with cognitive and physical disabilities to use the device
Google has been adding several new elements to Google Assistant on Android ahead of the debut of the Pixel 5 smartphone. The Google Assistant Snapshot feature added voice command access and a broader variety of information and suggestions for acitivities and recipes. Those recipes can be a lot more personalized as the Assistant settings now include far more dietary preferences. Instead of just gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian, options, users can pick their favorite cuisines and ingredients out, using an up and down voting system to adjust what Google Assistant recommends in Snapshot and when asked.