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Google Assistant is now used by half a billion people around the world

This story is part of our continuing coverage of CES 2020, including tech and gadgets from the showroom floor.

The popularity of smart assistants continues to grow and Google announced a major milestone: More than 500 million people use Google Assistant on a daily basis. Google also announced several new features that will make the Assistant even more powerful and functional in the year to come.

The first major announcement is a feature Google is calling Scheduled Actions. With this feature, users can ask Google to perform a task at a specific time. For example, someone could say, “Hey, Google, turn on the front porch light at 6 p.m.” Google also added more device access within the Home app with up to 20 new entries including air conditioning units and air purifiers.

Another new feature is called Household Notes. This feature is limited to smart displays and allows users to leave digital sticky notes on the screen as reminders to yourself or to anyone else in the home. If you fed the dog, you can leave a note for your spouse letting them know. It’s as simple as saying, “Hey, Google, leave a note that says I fed the dog.”

A third feature is the speed dial feature. The name is self-explanatory. Household contacts can be reached just by asking Google to call them or by selecting their name on the smart display’s contact list.

Google aims to make interacting with Google Assistant a better experience, and one of the ways the company has done this is by improving the way Google Assistants sounds. As a result, Google launched a new feature for reading long-form content in a more natural way. Users will be able to use the feature by saying, “Hey, Google, read this page” or “Hey, Google, read it.” Not only does this feature have applications for productivity, but it also allows Google Assistant to be used in more ways by those with vision impairment.

Finally, Google improved its security features to make them more accessible to users. Users can ask Google to delete everything they said to it this week and how Google keeps information private. Now, however, Google announced two new security features. They can say, “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you,” which causes the system to forget what it heard in case of unintended activation. Users can also ask “Hey, Google, are you saving my audio data?” to learn more about privacy controls and go straight to the settings screen to change privacy settings.

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