New Google Assistant on Pixel 4 Exclusive to US English at Launch, Works On-Device for Speed and Privacy

Technology

The new version of Google Assistant that Google announced at its Made By Google event yesterday will be exclusive to the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, at least for now. It has a completely new look, and is touted to be up to 10 times faster than before, thanks to a new offline language recognition and processing model that can run on the device itself, without sending requests to Google’s data centres and waiting for responses. Google has not yet disclosed when the new Assistant will come to previous-gen Pixel phones and third-party devices.

It will also be exclusive to the US, and will only work in English as of now, although XDA Developers reports that Canada, the UK, and Singapore could be next, based on an examination of the Google app’s code. This would imply that the new features will roll out for English-speaking countries before others, though that is not yet confirmed.

Using the newly revamped assistant, users can quickly open apps, search for information stored on their phones, and multitask between apps. Contextual awareness means that users can carry on a conversation, stringing multiple queries one after another, even building on the assistant’s responses.

First announced at Google I/O 2019 in May this year, the new Assistant can process and respond to many day-to-day requests without needing an Internet connection, and will even work when the host device is in Airplane mode. Users will be able to dictate and send messages, search for and share photos, manage calendar appointments, and much more. Requests for external information, such as flight timings, will still require an Internet connection.

According to Google, the company has managed to compress hundreds of gigabytes’ worth of voice processing information into a model that requires less than half a gigabyte. Local processing reduces latency and helps keep information private.

Speaking of privacy, Google promises that users can simply delete their Assistant history by telling it to do so. Users can even specify a time period to wipe out, such as the past day or week. Data stored on-device is protected by Google’s Titan M security and encryption chip.

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