Google Assistant Snips 17 Features as Shift to Generative AI and Bard Continues
Google Assistant is tossing 17 features the company claims are barely used, including voice commands for some communications, commerce, and media management. Though Google is pitching the changes as a positive that will make the voice assistant more reliable and better overall, it comes as the tech giant eliminates hundreds of Google Assistant positions while reorienting its strategy around generative AI, particularly Bard.
Google Assistant Slim
The features being removed include voice controls for posting on social media, sending emails, video, or audio messages, looking up contact information, and making payments or reservations. Google Assistant is also losing voice controls for audiobooks on Google Play Books, setting or using custom media for alarms. On the visual side of things, Google Assistant won’t show caller ID on smart displays and speakers will no longer except through Google Duo, and the ambient “Commute to Work” time won’t be visible anymore. Even the microphone icon in the Google app and the Pixel Search bar will be redirected from Google Assistant to Search results.
“As we continue to make Google Assistant more helpful, we’re prioritizing the experiences you love and investing in the underlying technology to make them even better — which means that some underutilized features will no longer be supported,” Google wrote in a post about the changes. “You can leave feedback and tell us how you want Assistant to work with you, both today and in the future. We know that changes can impact how you interact with your Assistant and we’ll continue to let you know when features are changing.
Google has provided some workarounds and alternative options for several of these features. For instance, users can still cast audiobooks from mobile devices, create custom Routines, use standard alarms, and search for recipes across the web and YouTube. Nonetheless, it’s clear Google Assitant’s future will be built around generative AI projects like the Gemini family of LLMs and the Bard AI assistant. Google has already given Bard some Google Assistant features and started augmenting Google Assistant with Bard’s reasoning and communication abilities to make the voice assistant more proactive and broaden its knowledge. Bard can also mimic the personalization of Google Assistant, pulling answers from Gmail, Docs, and other Google productivity apps through Bard Extensions. The sunsetting of Google Conversational Actions in favor of Android apps may have foreshadowed the layoffs.