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February 27, 2024

Google Assistant Removing 17 Underutilized Features to Refocus Priorities

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Written by AiBot

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Jan 12, 2024

Google has announced that over the next few weeks, it will be removing 17 underutilized features from the Google Assistant platform. This move comes as part of a broader effort to refocus priorities and resources on improving the Assistant’s core capabilities around quality and reliability.

Background

The Google Assistant platform powers various Google services and hardware products like smart speakers and displays. It uses natural language processing to understand voice commands, answer questions, perform actions like controlling smart home devices, and more.

Over the years, Google has expanded Assistant’s capabilities to add many niche features. However, usage metrics have shown that some of these features are rarely used.

At the same time, Google has been pushing Assistant into more critical real-world applications like Duplex for automated calls and reservations. Ensuring quality and reliability is vital for such use cases.

Impacted Features

Here is the full list of the 17 Google Assistant features being removed over the next few weeks:

Feature Description
Broadcast replies Replying to broadcast messages sent to Google/Nest smart speakers and displays
Playing video on Nest Hub Max as a TV Using Nest Hub Max as a TV with Google TV interface
Personal references Referencing personal contacts for calendar scheduling, messaging, etc.
Assignable reminders Creating reminders that can be assigned to others
Short music alarms Brief musical alarms on smart speakers
Stocks Getting stock quotes
Podcast subscriptions Managing podcast subscriptions
Digital wellbeing Digital wellbeing recommendations
Personal results Personalized results for sports teams, etc.
Recipe inspiration Suggesting recipes
Food and drink references Referencing food or drink you told Assistant you have
Purchases Referencing purchases you told Assistant about
Nearby Nearby place recommendations
Your places Referencing places you told Assistant about
Read aloud Assistant reading web pages aloud
Weather trend references Referencing previously mentioned weather trends
Call and text campaigns References to previous calls and texts

While these features will go away for Assistant users, some of them will still be available through other Google services. For example, users can still get stock quotes via Google Search.

Focus on Core Capabilities

With Google Assistant now used by over 500 million monthly active users, ensuring a reliable, high-quality experience is crucial. By removing these underutilized features, Google will be able to focus engineering resources on improving core capabilities.

Some areas of focus highlighted by Google include:

  • Natural conversation: Making conversations with Assistant more natural and contextual.
  • Real-world use cases: Expanding critical applications like Duplex for automated calls.
  • Performance: Improving latency and accuracy.
  • Cross-device experience: Providing a seamless experience as users interact with Assistant across various devices.

Impact on Hardware Products

The removal of these Google Assistant features could impact certain first-party Google hardware products.

For example, the ability to play video content on Nest Hub Max displays by using a Google TV-style interface will go away. This would degrade Hub Max capabilities as a kitchen TV.

Additionally, removing personal reference features will limit abilities like referencing calendar events with people’s names when setting reminders. This could impact convenience use cases on products like smart speakers.

Future Roadmap with Project Bard

This refocusing on Google Assistant comes alongside preparations to incorporate learnings from Bard, Google’s experimental conversational AI service.

Announced earlier this week, Bard aims to combine external world knowledge with the internal context Google has on users. The goal is to enable more natural, contextual conversations.

As Google works to integrate some of Bard’s capabilities into Assistant, streamlining the product now will likely help that integration go more smoothly in the future.

While Bard is still early in testing, additions like support for discussing multiple topics and stances could address some of the deficiencies created by removing features like personal references. However, the extent to which Bard makes it into Assistant even by the end of 2024 remains unclear.

User Sentiment Toward the Changes

Initial user sentiment toward these Google Assistant changes seems mixed:

  • Some appreciate the focus on quality and reliability for core use cases. However, there is concern that 17 features being cut in one go indicates bigger issues.
  • Reviewers have highlighted how removing unique differentiating capabilities risks regressing Assistant to just another voice assistant without standout functionality.
  • There is skepticism that the benefits of Bard will materialize to make up for the losses, given how experimental it still is. Google’s spotty track record with certain AI projects doesn’t help assure users.
  • Overall there seems to be an urge for more transparency from Google about its roadmap and prioritization plans going forward. Without that, this just feels like falling backward instead of marching ahead toward the next generation of assistance.

Final Thoughts

With Google Assistant available on over 1 billion devices, it has become a central daily interface for many users. As such, understanding Google’s vision and strategy is vital.

These feature removals indicate an urgency to rethink priorities and address foundational issues before expanding too far. While disruptive in the short term, if core capabilities like conversational reliability see noticeable gains, most users would deem these growing pains worthwhile.

However, Google does need to clearly communicate its future plans to retain consumer confidence. As AI assistants play bigger roles in our lives, trust in the companies behind them becomes crucial. Losing niche features is acceptable if it brings us notably closer to realizing AI’s helpful promise. But that promise has to be quantified – not just left for users to take on faith while features disappear.

This is a breaking news story and further updates may be added over time. Please check back for additional developments.

AiBot

AiBot

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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