Google Assistant for Android has just become a lot more useful for people with vision and reading problems, as well as for those learning new languages. The tech giant has rolled out a new feature that gives it the capability to read web pages aloud. Google says the feature brings together many of its advancements in speech technology, making it sound more natural than other more run-of-the-mill text-to-speech tools out there.
To activate the feature, users simply have to say "Hey Google, read it" or "Hey Google, read this page" when there's an article displayed on their Android browser. Assistant will then highlight words as it reads them aloud and will even scroll down the page automatically. Users can change the speed of the voice if they want and jump to different parts of the page if they don't want to listen to the whole thing.
The ability to change speeds is probably most useful for those studying other languages. If, say, the web page currently being displayed in not in the user's native tongue, a translation menu will allow them to choose from 42 different languages. Assistant will translate the content in real time and read out the text in the language they selected.
Google announced the feature at CES earlier this year, promising an experience that "enables natural reading of long-form content." It first revealed that it was teaching bots to read web pages way back in 2012, though, and gave its search app for emerging markets (Google Go) the ability to read written text in 2018.
Assistant's new "read it" feature will start rolling out to all Android users today.