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Google Assistant wants to make buying stuff easier. Just ask it

By adding transactions to its digital helper, Google is opening up the possibility of ordering items through voice conversations.

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At its annual Google I/O conference, Google announced that developers can add transactions to its Assistant digital helper.

Screenshot by Joan E. Solsman/CNET

Google Assistant will start letting you order and buy things, thanks to an update to the tools Google makes available to developers.

The search giant on Wednesday unveiled the new transaction features for its digital helper at Google I/O, its annual conference collecting the legion of developers who work in the far-flung corners of its empire. The three-day event is expected to bring updates about Google's Android mobile operating system, Chrome web browser, Google Home smart speaker and a slew of other products and services -- setting Google's priorities for the rest of the year.

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Valerie Nygaard, product manager for Assistant, announced the new transaction tool -- called an "action" for developers -- that would enable payments, identification, notifications, receipts and account creation, all meant to be conducted by Assistant's voice requests.

She walked through a demonstration of ordering from sandwich shop Panera. Without having to start a new account with the merchant, enter an address or credit card, or install something new, she ordered a salad and lemonade, by speaking responses to common prompts ("How about one of these cold drinks?") from Assistant and swiping through carousels of options.

"Super easy, like I was talking to someone at a store," she said.

Assistant pulled possible addresses and stored credit card details from information she previously registered with the company.

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