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AI assistants are still not smart but Googles just got better

Voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant seemed to burst out into our world promising much but struggled to go further. Alexa still baffles me on the lack of depth as to what it can do, with basic problems just never really being fixed. Siri has well-documented problems that remain a blight on Apple.

Google Assistant remains the benchmark and can surprise me with its capabilities at times, but is never far from doing something strange or frustrating.

Still, the ability to set a timer or quickly ask a question when your dog eats a blueberry (“Hey Google, are blueberries safe for dogs?”) is handy, while acknowledging the privacy concerns.

But here’s something. Someone found on Reddit (curiously not announced by Google yet, for whatever reason) that Google Assistant now handles “scheduled actions”, which was as confirmed on a Google Developers page — still a long way from being properly announced, though.

Anyway, it’s great: you can now say, starting with “Hey Google…” or “Ok Google…”:

  • “…turn off the lights in five minutes.”
  • “… turn on the lights at 7 AM.”
  • “… turn on the lights at sunset.”
  • “…turn off the lights at 11 PM.”
  • “…turn on my coffee maker at 8 AM tomorrow.”
  • “…turn on the light for a minute.”
  • “…run my sprinkler in a week at 5 PM.”
  • And so on. You get the idea. I put in too many examples. Sorry.

Anyway, I tried it all and it works! With a few problems:

  • If you say tomorrow without specifying a time, nothing happens despite the command being acknowledged 
  • While you can cancel a scheduled action, by saying either “Hey Google, cancel my scheduled Actions,” or “… remove my [device]s’ schedule,” it this doesn’t work yet. I guess it’s coming.

The comments are all very excited for a simple way to set a sleep timer for TV, lights on and off, turning on the coffee machine… but of course, you’ll need to have your house equipped with some smart lights and smart plugs to achieve any or all of this. 

And IoT devices and smart homes, eesh. That’s a whole thing in itself, as Troy Hunt (the “Have I Been Pwned” guy) detailed today: IoT Unravelled Part 1: It’s a mess… But then there’s Home Assistant. You have to be both super committed and super willing to dedicated hours and days and weeks for goals that go beyond simple on/offs with apps. It’s a maze.

Still, this tiny step from Google shows useful progress. About time.


Passionate about technology and gaming. I am a regular bloke with a small child, so forgive any mistakes in my posts, it's from sleep deprivation. All opinions are my own.

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