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Explainer Smart Home

What is the Google Assistant?

Catch up on the basics of Google's virtual assistant.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If you have a newer Android phone or a Google Home smart speaker, the Google Assistant is the voice that speaks to you and answers your questions whenever you say the phrase "OK Google." The Google Assistant is the search giant's version of Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa.

The Assistant responds to the wake words "OK Google" on Android Phones like the Google Pixel. It responds to both "OK Google" and "Hey Google" on the Google Home. Say those words, and you can command the assistant to read you a recipe, set a timer, check your calendar, give you directions or control your smart home. Here's our full list of everything the Assistant can do on your phone, and here's everything it can do on the Google Home.

Read more: Google is replacing Works with Nest with Works with Google Assistant and it could make your smart home worse.  

"Now, hold on a second," you might say. "I thought Google's version of Siri was called Google Now." And you'd be right. Google's version of Siri was called Google Now. Here's a breakdown of the differences between Google Now and the Google Assistant.

Google first debuted the Assistant at the company's annual developer conference in 2016 to be a more conversational digital assistant. Initially, you could only access the Assistant on the company's own Pixel phones and the Google Home. As of now, it's available on many more Android phones. You can even download it as an app for your iPhone.

Soon, you might see the Assistant implemented into many more devices -- anything from large appliances to cocktail bars. At this year's developers' conference, Google offered third-party developers the necessary tools and code to build the Assistant into their own unique products.