Google has announced via a video that Google Assistant is now rolling out to a number of Android Marshmallow and Nougat devices, marking the virtual assistant's official expansion beyond Google's pair of Pixel flagships.
Google Assistant Rolling Out Now
Google first revealed plans to expand Assistant to other devices earlier this week during the Mobile World Congress. U.S. Android users will catch the update first, followed by users in Australia, Canada, the UK, and Germany.
Users won't be required to download Google Assistant; it won't be available as an app. Instead, the company is adding the virtual assistant as an update through Google Play services. So if you chance upon such an update, it means that your phone is getting Assistant.
What Is Google Assistant?
While the company didn't specify eligible devices that'll get Assistant, it did promise that it's rolling out to over 100 million Android users, replacing the conventional search features set in place prior. It's a beefier upgrade to Google Now, that's for sure. First unveiled during last year's Google I/O conference, Assistant works much like how Siri and Alexa does, where users can quip conversational commands and questions and expect machine learning-backed responses.
Assistant's edge from other voice-enabled assistant is its contextual ability, where it's able to cull information from previous lines of text and leverage those to spit out accurate responses. For example, ask it how much Kubo and the Two Strings earned in the box office and it'll give the exact figure. Ask "what it's about?" and it'll also give the premise, notably without the user needing to mention the film's title again. Context-based learning is one of the tentpole features virtual assistants are trying to reach, and Google is apparently in the lead.
Apart from search-related queries, Assistant can also perform numerous tasks, such as setting reminders, translating blocks of text, providing weather information, triggering smart home devices on and off, and searching through photos by context — ask it to "show me photos of cars."
There are also Actions, as Google puts it, which are basically akin to Alexa's Skills. It connects Assistant to a broader app ecosystem, letting it trigger and perform certain features with the help of third-party integrations.
Although frustrating, it made sense for Google to lock Assistant inside Pixel devices, so as to provide an incentive for those picking up the device. But it also makes sense why Google is rolling it out widely, given Pixel's smaller market share, and the mounting competition across voice-enabled virtual assistants.
While only those running either Marshmallow or Android are privy to the update, that still represents a huge chunk of Android users, with Marshmallow enjoying nearly 31 percent of distribution share, according to TechCrunch.
Once installed, users can simply hold the home button to access Assistant. They may also spit "OK Google" and it'll spring up just as well.
Has Assistant landed on your Marshmallow or Nougat device? How's the experience so far? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!