Baked into Google's flagship Pixel phone (and its larger counterpart, the Pixel XL) is a central AI feature called Google Assistant. Polite and oftentimes charming, Assistant uses Google's vast database to help users with tasks such as penciling in a lunch date into your calendar, reminding you about your laundry and calling your mother.
Assistant is expected to be built into other upcoming phones too, and the LG G6 already comes with it out of the box. For some phones that have already launched, it'll be available through a software update (more on that later). In addition, Assistant is included in other products like Google Home. While most of these commands overlap, Assistant has other abilities unique to each platform.
Below is a list of all the things Assistant can do on the Pixel. Once you get the hang of these commands, you'll quickly become a Google Assistant Power User.
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Which phones have Google Assistant?
The Pixel isn't the only phone to have Assistant (though it was the first one). The LG G6 ships with Assistant, and more are expected to have it natively. It'll also come to some handsets running Android 7.0 Nougat and 6.0 Marshmallow through an over-the-air update. This includes the Samsung Galaxy S7, the LG V20 and the HTC 10. Other phone partners include Huawei and Sony (though no specific phones are known yet).
If you don't have a Pixel, you can get Assistant by downloading the Allo messaging app on Android and iOS. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with your phone as seamlessly and you won't have the same breezy two-way conversation. Instead, it's more like a traditional chatbot, and you have to type out commands.
To get started with Assistant, you have to know the basics:
- To get Assistant to "wake up" and listen to a command, say, "OK, Google"
- To stop Assistant while it's carrying out a command, say, "OK, Google, stop" or, "never mind."
- Speak conversationally -- Google Assistant can understand the same command spoken a variety of ways. More on that below.
Call and send messages
Make a phone call. You can call someone by saying, "make a phone call." Or you can go straight into calling individual people and places -- "call mom," "call Nelson back," "call Pizza California."
Get more specific. You can specify which number you want to call ("call dad's work number"), what kind of call to make ("call Jimmy on speakerphone," "video call Michael") and even which app you want to use to make the call ("call Mark on Viber"). Saying, "call voicemail" and "redial" checks your voicemail and calls the last dialed number.
Send texts and emails. To start sending a text or email, say, "send a message" or, "send an email." If you already have a jump on things, you can specify the recipient and begin dictating the message by saying, "send an email to Peter," or, "text Angela, 'be there in 10 minutes.'"
Google Assistant also works with third-party messaging apps. Try saying, "send a message on Telegram."
Set timers, alarms and reminders
Set timers. You can set a timer or countdown by saying, "set a timer for 10 minutes," or, "countdown 5 minutes." You can also give it a label -- "set a timer for 30 minutes for laundry."
Delete your timers by saying, "cancel my timers." You can also check a timer by asking, "how much time is left?"
Set alarms. Setting and labeling alarms work the same way, but if you want to spice things up, you can be more conversational and say, "wake me up in 20 minutes" or, "wake me up at 8 a.m." And since alarms are usually regimented, you can specify the frequency. For example, "set an alarm for weekdays at 7:30 a.m."
Request reminders. Reminders work around time too. You can say, "remind me to take the recycling out in 2 hours," or, "remind me to call Dad on Thursday at 7 p.m." But location-based reminders are even more interesting.
If you have location services turned on, you can set a reminder that will trigger when you get to a specific place. Try something like, "remind me to email An when I get home," or, "remind me to grab a beer the next time I'm in Oakland."
Control your music and camera
Music-playing and controls. When you say, "play music" or even, "listen to [name of genre] music," the Pixel will automatically start playing music from Google Music.
If you're subscribed to a music streaming service, you can launch an app by saying, "play Beyonce on Spotify," but music won't automatically start playing. Instead, it'll enter a search query. Once the music's playing, you can ask Assistant to turn the volume up or down.
Launch the camera. Assistant can fire up both the rear and front-facing camera depending on whether you say, "take a picture" or, "take a selfie." After the camera app opens, a three-second countdown will start and the shutter will snap a photo.
Work with other apps
Assistant works with other third-party apps, but don't expect its abilities to be too far reaching. Some examples include:
- Wikipedia: "Show me The Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Wikipedia."
- YouTube: "Open Buzzfeed's Youtube channel."
- Twitter: "Post to Twitter, 'Eating tacos with Sharon.'"
Check your privacy settings
With all these tasks you're carrying out on your phone, it's good to check up on your Pixel's privacy settings once in a while. Assistant can do this for you ("Adjust my Google privacy/security settings"), as well as draw up account info too ("Show me my Google account," "Show my Google search history").
Get the lowdown on the news
News and weather. You can get a daily news briefing by asking, "what's the news?" or, "give me a news brief." You can also check the weather by saying, "what's the weather in San Jose?" or, "what's this weekend's forecast?"
Drill down to specific topics by asking something like, "show me international news," or, "what's the news about Elizabeth Warren?"
Sports. For sports, you can ask about general sports news as well as specific teams. You can check schedules, scores and rosters. Assistant can also search for stats and record breakers -- you know, in case you're at a party and want to settle a bet. Below are some questions you can ask:
- Show me sports news.
- How are the Warriors doing?
- When do the San Francisco Giants play?
- What are the Premier League Standings
- Who does Messi play for?
- Who is on Liverpool's roster?
- Who is the fastest person alive?
- What sound does a pig make?
- What team has won the most Super Bowls?
Organize your life
Calendar and scheduling. Because of its integration with Google services such as Gmail, Calendar and Photos, Assistant can help organize your daily life in a variety of ways. You can say, "tell me about my day," or "what's on my calendar this weekend?" to learn more about your schedule. And you can add events to your calendar by saying, "add meeting with Rich to calendar."
Emails. You can sift through your emails with specific requests. Try, "show me emails to Samantha," or, "show my emails from yesterday."
Flight info. Check your flight info by asking, "when is my flight?" or "is my flight on time?" The Assistant gathers this information when airlines and booking services send you email confirmations.
Photos. Quickly find photos taken in specific places by saying, "show me my photos from Portland." You can also find photos taken with specific people by saying, "show me my selfies" or, "show me my photos with Sarah." Find photos of specific things by saying, "show me my photos of food."
Shopping lists. You can also start a shopping list that will be saved in the Google Keep app. Just say, "add bananas to my shopping list."
Control your Smart Home
Turn on/off lights. If you have smart-connected lights, you can use Assistant to control them by saying, "turn on the kitchen lights" or, "dim the lights." Check on their status by asking, "is the light on in the bathroom?"
Set the temperature. Adjust your smart thermostat to specific temperatures by saying, "set the thermostat to 68 degrees."
Navigate and discover nearby places
Assistant can use Google Maps and your GPS location to tell you about places nearby. You can call up directions by saying, "navigate to the nearest Philz Coffee," or, "get driving directions to Golden Gate Park." It can also look up places of interest such as local businesses and attractions:
- Find a salon nearby.
- Where can I get seafood?
- Show me local movie times.
- Are there museums around here?
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Travel far and translate
Get help with travel. For long-distance travel, Assistant can search for flights and hotels. Try, "find a hotel in Ireland" or, "find flights to JFK." It can help find attractions too. You can ask, "where can I hike in Boulder?" or, "what are the top attractions in Japan?"
Translate. If you're in a place where you don't speak the language, Assistant can translate phrases for more than 100 languages. Ask it something like, "how do you say, 'I would like this baguette' in French?"
Ask about random facts
The Assistant is the artificial intelligence interface of Google's vast search database, so it can handle a lot of questions. A lot. So many that it's hard to categorize them narratively. Here's a sampling of the kind of queries you can throw at it:
- How far away is the moon?
- How many species of birds are there?
- Who invented the traffic light?
- What's the time difference between Singapore and San Francisco?
- Who was president during World War I?
- How tall is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?
- Tell me a Christmas fact.
- Give me a Sylvia Plath quote.
If you're feeling especially lonely, you can ask Assistant about itself. Try, "how do you keep busy?" or, "what makes you happy?" You'll get polite, charming answers, but don't expect it to know if it ever gets nervous, if its single and if it's getting money.
Play games, have some robot fun
Lastly, have some fun with Assistant. If you tell it to play a game, it'll call up five different kinds of games, which include an audio game, a doodle game and a couple of classic games like tic-tac-toe. Saying, "I'm feeling lucky" will start a round of trivia in the format of a five-question (or more, if you choose) gameshow. Assistant also comes in handy if you're playing something in real life with actual real friends. You can ask it to "roll a dice," "flip a coin," "show me a card," or "count from one to 10."
If you're really bored, you can call up funny content by saying, "show me a funny picture." You can also ask for a video or joke. And if that doesn't help, Assistant will try to entertain you to if you ask it to beatbox for you, recite a love poem or serenade you. Just try not to fall in love with it, OK?
First published February 15, 6 a.m. P.T.
Update, February 16, 11 a.m. P.T.: Added privacy settings commands.