scorecardGoogle Assistant to get better at pronouncing names and having conversations
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Google Assistant to get better at pronouncing names and having conversations

Google Assistant to get better at pronouncing names and having conversations
Tech3 min read
  • Google Assistant is getting better with names and contextual awareness.
  • The search giant is adding three new features to make conversations feel more natural.
  • The new update will only be working on smart speaker set to US English language for now.
Google has announced an update that addresses the most annoying and long-standing issue with its voice assistant — mispronunciation and contextual awareness. This is a big update (assuming it works as intended) as it not only fixes the recognition of what you say but also what you mean.

We have seen the Google Assistant improving over time but it's still too early to call it great. Taking India's example where accent, pronunciation and language are diverse, it sometimes gets quite frustrating to explain what you actually want the virtual assistant to do. What happens right now is that it's the user that has to change his way of talking instead of the assistant adapting as per the user. The flexibility is missing.

Name recognition on Google Assistant should get better

Google says it wants Assistant to accurately recognise and pronounce names, especially the uncommon ones. It makes sense because it's frustrating when you're trying to make a call using voice to save time and you end up wasting more trying to make the voice assistant understand what you want. Imagine you're using Android Auto while driving and ask the Assistant for directions to a local shop and it doesn't get the name so end up stopping the car and manually entering the location — how useless tech seems on such occasions.

In the coming weeks, users will be able to teach Google Assistant to pronounce and recognise names just how you do it. You can teach how a name is pronounced and the Assistant will remember it once you approve it. The feature will arrive only in the English language for now, and Google hopes to bring it to more languages.

The bigger issue is contextual awareness

The issue in contextual awareness is flexibility. Google Assistant has come a long way in this area, but conversations still feel far from natural. There are times when you stutter or stop mid-way to change your command which confuses the assistant and fails to understand the task, but it shouldn't happen after this update. So the next time you say, "OK Google, remind me to hit the gym at seven, sorry, at nine,” it will cancel the first command and go with the last one. But this update will only come to alarm and timers initially.

The search giant has also fixed the issue with multiple timers set at the same time. Earlier, the Assistant struggled to infer which timer you are referring to but going forward, it will be able to know it. It means when you ask, “OK Google, cancel my second timer,” it will know which one.

Google has also applied Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) to improve the quality of your conversations using your previous interactions and understands what’s currently being displayed on your device's display to respond to any follow-up questions to allow a more natural, back-and-forth conversation.

The new updates will be rolled out in the coming days only on smart speakers set to US English. The company says it will be arriving on smartphones and smart displays soon. There's no region-wise availability detail revealed as of now.

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