Google India Unveils Voice Banking and COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduling
Google has added new voice features to its services in India. Google Assistant can now help users set up COVID-19 vaccine appointments, while the Google Pay app can now understand voice commands in Hinglish and can carry out financial transactions from voice commands.
Google Pay Talk
The Google Pay app in India already handles a growing number of monetary transactions between people and from people to businesses. Now, that money can be moved by asking the app through the upcoming speech-to-text feature. Users simply have to say what bank and account number they want to send money to at that point. Once the recipient confirms, the money is sent just as fast as it would be without speaking. The app understands Hindi and English, but the addition of Hinglish, a Hindi and English hybrid tongue, opens up a lot more potential users for the app. It’s a first for Google and for the financial industry, according to the company.
“Money is integral to our lives, and our experience with it should be as seamless as our everyday conversations. The introduction of Hinglish is our attempt to make these interactions even more intuitive and natural via Google Pay,” Google explained in a blog post. “In the same vein, we also announced the upcoming launch of speech to text, which allows users to use voice input to pay directly to another user’s bank account – they can voice account numbers in Hindi or English into the app to enter the account number, which is then confirmed with the sender before initiating the payment.”
Google has come up with more than a few ways to connect people with limited means to its voice services, including a free, dedicated phone line for people to call Google Assistant from any phone. The company has been successfully encouraging voice app developers in India to work in languages besides English. There were around ten times as many voice apps in Hindi for Google Assistant than Alexa in early 2020. Though Alexa has been racking up new features in India, Google has plenty of opportunities to leverage its linguistic lead to stay ahead of its rivals.
The COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more widely available in India, but setting up an appointment through the government’s COWIN service online still presents a barrier to many people. That’s why Google Assistant will help people complete all of the forms through voice in a pilot program starting next year. Google Assistant will fill out the forms and set the vaccination date in English or any of eight major Indian languages. While Google hopes to bring this kind of function to other countries, starting in India makes sense based on the country’s enthusiasm for voice assistants. As Google pointed out, the number of Indians asking questions by voice is twice the average worldwide. The same kind of tech will be used soon in search results in India, with the responses read out loud from the search engine by Google Assistant.
“Filling a web form may sound trivial to most, but for millions who are unfamiliar with using a smartphone or who are unable to read, it can be daunting. Over the last few years, we’ve strived to reduce such complexity and remove barriers to information, especially with innovations in speech recognition and language understanding,” Google wrote in its blog. “We have worked closely with COWIN to enable this integration, where people everywhere will be able to easily book a vaccine appointment in a more guided manner. It will empower them with access to information and healthcare that would otherwise have been out of reach – a telling example of how technology can bridge gaps in access, and make a tangible difference in people’s lives.”