Google Releases, Then Retracts, Google Assistant’s Gboard Voice Dictation Feature
Google Assistant briefly allowed hands-free text dictation on the Gboard keyboard interface into any app on the Google Pixel 4, 4a, and 5, before unknown issues led Google to scrub the feature again. An unannounced widespread rollout of the option abruptly vanished, bringing back the previous way of typing by voice. As and when the feature returns, it will give users a lot more power to run their device via the voice assistant.
While still available, the feature lets users activate voice dictation when Gboard is on the screen using “Hey Google, type” as a command or tapping the microphone icon on the digital keyboard. The icon would then brighten, and the wavy rainbow line on the screen would indicate the voice assistant was listening. Once the transcription, including automatic punctuation, was complete, users could say clear to begin again or finish by saying “send” and whichever contact would get the text or email. That’s just the start of what the feature is supposed to do, based on software teardowns. Theoretically, users will be able to leverage Google Assistant and Gboard to add text to any app where typing is an option. The current iteration is limited to emailing and texting, including the voice commands for deleting and sending dictated messages. As it is, the connection to Google Assistant only lasted at most a day or two before a follow-up server push removed it. The limits of the integration suggest that it may have been accidentally let out before it was ready or perhaps still had bugs that needed to be fixed.
Google wants Gboard to be able to understand and transcribe what people say even when apps are open on the smartphone. Google Assistant is refined enough to be able to do so, and the hands-free control was actually demonstrated over a year ago at Google’s I/O conference. One reason for the delay may be to make sure Google Assistant can run Gboard’s recently added real-time voice translation ability, an expansion on the text-only translation option added a few years ago. Gboard can now simultaneously translate speech into dozens of the Google Translate languages. Fusing Google Asssitant with Gboard will also serve the company’s plans to integrate the voice assistant more completely and with more products. Google wants people to think of Google Assistant as a way to augment typing and swiping controls. The voice assistant is pitched as product enhancement, one that makes people more likely to buy Google Assistant-powered devices by streamlining and speeding up a process, as opposed to replacing the other ways of completing a task.