Developers can now build custom commands for Google Assistant

A washing machine with Assistant built in could recognize commands for its specialized cycles.

Andrew Gebhart Former senior producer
2 min read

This iHome alarm clock is one of the first devices with Google Assistant built in that's not a speaker or a phone.


Google's ready to make its assistant more flexible. Developers can now build device-specific commands for its digital helper, Google Assistant.

Previously, developers could build custom commands to an extent through Actions. Actions are essentially apps you control with your voice when talking to Google Assistant. Through Actions, you can use Google Assistant to control your smart home , check your calendar, read the news and more. Third-party developers could make their own Actions and commands, but they had to work across all Google Assistant devices.

Google Assistant first rolled out on Android phones and Google's smart speaker, Google Home . Now, developers are building the digital helper into a wider variety of gadgets such as alarm clocks and smoke detectors. Google obviously wants to encourage that expansion to continue. Today's announcement specifically focuses on speciality devices with Google Assistant built-in. Through the new Custom Device Actions, developers can build Assistant into a new device and will be able to create commands specific to that device.

Google's blog post announcing the custom actions offered a washing machine as an example. If Assistant is built-in, the machine will no longer be limited to the normal smart home commands such as "turn on" and "turn off" that might not be specific enough for a washing machine. A developer that builds a washing machine with Google Assistant will be able to create commands based on the specific cycles of that machine. In theory, you'll just be able to talk to the washing machine and say "run the color cycle" and it'll work.

You'll also now be able to turn on notifications for certain actions, so Esquire.com can send you wisdom tips to start your day, for example. Actions will also now be supported with Google's media playback, so developers don't have to build specific commands for basic functions like pausing and playing video.

To show off the possibilities of the Custom Device Actions, Google's showing off beer-serving and sock-sorting robots at a Google Assistant Fun House at interactive entertainment festival South by Southwest. Check out Google's blog post for the address if you're attending.

I'll be waiting to see if these custom commands help Google catch up to  Amazon in third-party devices with their respective assistants built-in. Amazon has a direct corollary to Google's actions in its own skills, but as of yet, developers can't build device-specific skills.