The Google Assistant can't cook you dinner, but it can walk you through it

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The Google Assistant, the smart digital helper, can already juggle a bunch of hands-free tasks for you. It will supply movie showtimes, place a restaurant reservation, summon a car, and even place orders from nearby stores on command. And it hasn’t stopped improving. This week, it is gaining integrations that will boost its cooking, booking, nature, and car knowledge.

On Wednesday, Google announced recipe skills for the Google Assistant and Google Home, the artificial intelligence-powered smart home speaker. Before, both could answer basic questions about substitutions, measurements, and conversions before, but now, they go about it a little more conversationally. You can ask about recipes by yelling commands like, “OK Google, let’s make a croissant,” and if you’re on a smartphone or tablet, you save a recipe for later by tapping, “Send to Google Home.” When you shout “OK Google, start cooking” at your Google Home, it will start walking you through the steps.

If you accidentally miss something, it’s no big deal. You can ask the Google Assistant or Google Home to repeat it by saying, “OK Google, repeat.” If it is a step earlier in the recipe, you can say something like, “OK Google, what is step two?”

Google’s said it is sourcing more than 5 million recipes from Bon Appetit, The New York Times, and more, and that the new recipe skill will roll out to the Google Assistant and Google Home in the coming weeks.

Recipes are not the only new thing.

Earlier this week, Google Home and the Google Assistant gained 25 new actions — or third-party voice apps — including one that lets you listen to hundreds of bird songs, a voice-activated virtual concierge, and vehicle controls.

Mercedes and Hyundai recently launched actions that tap into their respective car platforms. The Mercedes Me action can unlock the car door, take navigation directions, and start the car engine.

For naturalists and nature lovers, there is the Bird Song Skill by Thomptronics and Earth Day. Bird Song Skills can play more than 200 bird sounds and test your knowledge with the song quiz. And the Earth Day action can supply resources on issues like deforestation, climate change, and biodiversity.

The Atlanta rail action provides local bus and train arrival times. The Virtual Concierge, a product of The Lodge in Palmer Lake, Washington, tells vacation rental and Airbnb guests about house rules and answers questions about things like Wi-Fi passwords, nearby restaurants, and activities. And the Farmer’s Almanac tells you things like the number of days until summer and the best time to destroy pests and weeds.

Google said that more than 175 actions have been added to Google Home since the launch of Actions on the Google Assistant platform last December. And new skills and actions follow the debut of multi-account support. Last week, the Google Assistant on Home devices gained support multiple accounts and the ability to differentiate between up to six voices.


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