Google Assistant Upgrades Broadcast Feature into a Universal Messenger
Google has augmented the Broadcast feature of Google Assistant, expanding its reach from a single home to any device anywhere. The universal upgrade to the feature is part of a handful of new and improved elements for the voice assistant structured around family-friendly uses ahead of Mother’s Day.
The Broadcast feature was first introduced back in 2017 as a way for users to send a message from a Google smart speaker or display to every compatible device in the smart home network or to specific groups of devices within the home. Subsequent updates have adjusted the feature, including grouping it under the Communicate tab with phone calls and Google Meet appointments, but always kept it house-bound. Google has shattered that barrier now, with the option to broadcast from a smart speaker or display to anyone in a ‘Family’ group, including their smartphones with the previous devices. The Family group can count up to six people, who cant then respond to the message from those same devices. Google specifically pitches the update as a good way for mothers to organize and keep track of their families.
“Moms everywhere can likely agree that this year (and then some) has had us working overtime. As a mom of two who’s working at home, I know that’s how I’ve felt. Maybe that’s why I’m extra excited for Mother’s Day this year,” Google Assistant senior director of product management Lilian Rincon wrote in a blog post about the updates. “We’re extending one of our most popular Assistant features, Broadcast, so you can reach your family wherever they are, and they can respond from any device including from their phones.”
Bells and Whistles
Google also updated the Family Bell feature launched last summer to set up proactive reminders during the day using words, not just alarm noises. The feature has been quite popular, with more than 20 million alerts set since last August, almost 19 years of continuous alerts when combined, according to Rincon. Now, they can now be set up to ring on more than one device at once, instead of just being assigned to a single smart speaker or display. The reminders can also speak in eight new languages, adding French, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Hindi, and Korean to the English default. While obviously useful in an international context, it’s also easy to imagine the multilingual aspect being useful for helping learn a language, if only to remind a child it’s time to do their French homework en Francais. Google Assistant added a handful of new games and stories as well. Notably, the voice assistant is adding new Harry Potter-related stories in a partnership with Pottermore Publishing. Finally, Google Assistant is adding new instructional songs to its repertoire of handwashing mask-wearing it debuted last year.
“We had to add a few easter eggs too. Try using a timer on Mother’s Day and see what happens! Since the handwashing song was so popular, we created new ones to help kids stay on task and do their chores. Try ‘Hey Google, Sing the clean up song,’ ‘Hey Google, Sing the go to sleep song’ or ‘Hey Google, Sing the brush your teeth song,'” Rincon wrote. “Hopefully this schedule gives you a little Mother’s Day inspiration — or even just a stress-free weekend.”