Google Assistant will let you teach it how to pronounce tricky names

It's also getting better at understanding context.


Google is introducing a handful new updates that will make Assistant better at pronouncing tricky names and understanding the context of conversations you share with it. To start, you’ll soon have the opportunity to teach it how to pronounce the names of your contacts, much like you can already coach it on how to properly say your own name. According to Google, “Assistant will listen to your pronunciation and remember it,” with no need for the recording to be kept by the company.

Google says the feature will be available in English first, though it “hopes” to make it available in other languages as well. Once you get the new update on your phone, tap the “Record your own” option under the contact field in the Assistant settings menu to get started.

I can only speak for myself, but I find I end up using Assistant mostly for setting timers and that something Google is improving as well. The company says it completely rebuilt the AI’s natural language understanding models to more accurately grasp context. Thanks to the inclusion of Google's BERT technology, it can now process words holistically instead of one-by-one. With those additions, Google claims “Assistant can now respond nearly 100 percent accurately to alarms and timer tasks.” In practice, that means you can do something like change your mind mid-sentence and Assistant will follow your train of thought. If you live in the US, you can try this feature out today on a Assistant-capable smart speaker, with availability on phones and smart displays to follow “soon.”

Lastly, Google is using the same BERT technology to further enhance Assistant’s contextual awareness. So say you start a conversation about Miami and you end up asking for recommendations for the best beaches, it will know you mean beaches in Miami. Similarly, it can also understand questions related to things you’re looking at on your phone or smart display. All of those enhancements should make conversations with Assistant feel more natural and useful.