Google Assistant is built into most modern Android phones, Google's smart speakers, a few third-party smart speakers, and a variety of other third-party devices like smoke detectors and smart displays.
For the most part, you command Google Assistant with your voice, like with Alexa or Siri. Say the word, and Google Assistant will play music, control your smart home, search the internet, and more.
Click through and we'll help you get familiar with all things Google Assistant so you can impress your family with your voice-activated powers at your next gathering.
Google now offers three smart speakers -- Google Home Mini, Google Home Max and the original Google Home. They're technically "always-listening" so you can issue a voice command to them without needing to touch it to wake it up.
That said, they won't record everything you say at all times. They'll only record and respond after you get their attention with the preset phrases called wake words.
For Google Assistant, those wake words are either "Hey Google" or "OK Google." For example, you can say "Hey Google, when is the next summer Olympics?" and your speaker will wake up and give you an answer.
After you wake it up, Google does record what you say. You also link your Google Assistant to a Gmail account when you first set it up, so it can have access to information like your name and calendar.
According to Google, they'll mostly use these recordings to help the company improve the performance of its assistant, but it will share your personal info with third parties if you give your consent.
Now, let's talk about what all you can do with Google Assistant once you're up and running. For the most part, Google Assistant can do the same tasks whether you're talking to it on your phone or a smart speaker. Your Assistant can obviously display more info and interact with apps like Google Maps more directly when you're on your phone. But unless otherwise noted, as I go through Google Assistant's abilities, I'm talking about its abilities on all compatible devices.
One of the most common uses for Google Assistant, especially on smart speakers, is listening to music. You can ask Google Assistant to play a specific song, an artist, a type of music, or give it a few lyrics and ask it to search for and then play the song you're quoting.
On smart speakers, you can select different streaming services as your default. So if you ask for a song, Google will look in Spotify or Pandora first, depending on your preference.
Once the right song is playing, the premium Google Home Max will make it sound great.
The more affordable Google Home Mini doesn't have the same sound quality as the Google Home Max. It still sounds fine for its size, but handily, you can ask your Assistant to play music on your own sound system. Google's smart speakers can stream the music to your speakers through the company's music streamer called Chromecast or over a Bluetooth connection.
You can also use Google Assistant to control your smart home. Google recently announced that the Assistant works with more than 5,000 devices and every major smart-home company, so if you have a smart-home gadget, you can probably control it with Google Assistant.
To control your smart home with Google Assistant, you'll need to link your device. For example, with the Nest Thermostat, you'll need to link your Nest account to your Google Assistant. Then, you can issue a command to your smart speaker like "Hey Google, turn the temperature up two degrees," and it will work.
Aside from controlling music and the smart home, Google Assistant has lots of other abilities. You can ask it general trivia questions, sync your calendar, and ask it to create appointments, and you can even ask it for cooking help.
Your smart speaker can walk you through lots of recipes with step-by-step directions, and it works well. You can pause, skip forward and skip back as you need to.
All of Google's smart speakers have a physical mute button if you don't want the microphone listening even for the wake words. You can also do some basic functionality like control the volume and play or pause your music with a tap.
You can actually train Google Assistant to recognize your voice. Each Google smart speaker can remember up to six distinct voices, so it can customize responses based on who's talking and you can ask about your calendar without getting your significant other's info. You can even make purchases verified only by your voice.
Google Assistant isn't just in Google's proprietary speakers anymore.
The Tichome Mini put the Google Assistant into a portable, waterproof speaker. We also quite like the JBL Link series of speakers as they combine all of the smarts of Google Assistant with great sound quality.
Part of the reason that'll we see more Google Assistant devices soon is that Google has opened up the Assistant's software to developers. That's allowed developers to create unique abilities and games for existing speakers -- called Google Actions -- and create unique hardware, too.
Google helped show off the possibilities of the open Assistant with a cocktail mixer you can control with your voice.