The question of whether or not it’s necessary to say “please” and “thank you” to smart assistants is one that divides users, but it’s clear tech companies think it should at least be an option. Following Amazon’s decision to reward children when they’re polite to Alexa, Google is introducing similar functionality to the Google Assistant named Pretty Please (first announced at I/O earlier this year). It’s part of a raft of new updates out today, including better list-taking functionality and more family-orientated games and stories.
Pretty Please is an optional feature which will “reinforce polite behavior.” If users say “please” or “thank you” to Google Assistant they’ll be rewarded with what Google is calling “delightful responses.” These mean that the Assistant will acknowledge their politeness and respond in kind. So, say something like “Hey Google, please set a timer for 5 minutes” and the Assistant will reply: “Thanks for asking so nicely. Alright, 5 minutes. Starting now.”
The feature will be automatically enabled for all voice matched users (that is, those who have registered their voices using the app) and Google says it’ll work with both smart displays and smart speakers. For parents worried that virtual assistants are encouraging bad manners in children, it’ll be a good way to prod the little ones to remember their p’s and q’s.
Along with Pretty Please, Google is rolling out a clutch of small features and changes. These include a talkback feature for integration between Google smart displays and Nest Hello video doorbells, allowing you to speak to guests before letting them in, and an update to Assistant’s note- and list-taking functionality.
With the update, users will have the ability to ”manage multiple lists in one central place” using Google Assistant. With voice commands, users can create new, named lists (“Hey Google, create a gift list”) and check what’s on existing lists (“Hey Google, what’s on my to-do list?”). These lists will be stored in the Assistant app, but Google says it’ll soon be adding support for other services including Google Keep, Any.do, Bring!, and Todoist.
In time for the holidays, Google Assistant is also getting a bunch of new family-orientated features. These include new read-along stories from Disney, including “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” and upcoming stories from films like Frozen, Aladdin, Mulan, and The Lion King. (You can see a full list of stories here.) And there are new standalone stories, no book required, including Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and Dora the Explorer’s Dora’s Super Sleepover.
To follow on from those stories, Google Assistant can now also call Santa Claus. Say “Hey Google, Call Santa,” and it’ll start an interactive game. Santa is apparently rehearsing for a musical concert but only knows one song — guess who’ll be able to help him out.
And to round out the updates, Google is also adding some new features to its screen and camera-enabled smart displays. These include a new way to set alarms (just swipe up from the home screen and tap the timer button), an easier way to share photos (just say “Hey Google, share this photo with April” to send it to someone in your contact list) and an update that lets users reply to the Assistant’s “broadcast” functionality.
Broadcast lets users send a message to all Assistant-enabled speakers, but now users can reply to these group shouts. Google gives the example of someone sending the message back home: “Does anyone need anything from the store?” Users at home can then reply via Google Assistant on their phone or on a device. A handy feature for those last-minute shopping trips.