Google forces you to embrace Assistant to get out of its CES 2020 escape room

The search giant scaled back from last year's attraction, which was similar to "It's a Small World."

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read

Google created an attraction to market the Google Assistant.  

Richard Nieva/CNET

Last year, Google made a splash at CES by bringing its own version of "It's a Small World" to the consumer tech industry's biggest conference. This year, Google again created an interactive experience for conference attendees in Las Vegas, though this version is nowhere near as elaborate as 2019's theme park ride. 

Instead, Google built an experience similar to an escape room, which ushers visitors through a set of rooms that showcase the abilities of the Google Assistant, the search giant's voice software that competes with Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri.

The attraction opened Tuesday at Google's booth next to the Las Vegas Convention Center. The search giant built a two-story funhouse to advertise its products and devices. 

Google Booth CES 2020

Part of the ride takes place in a car.

James Martin/CNET

Here's the premise of the escape room: You're meeting with investors (how Silicon Valley) for dinner, and they want you to serve a specific dish -- bacon and Brussels burrata di bufala risotto burritos. You go about your day using the Google Assistant to help you navigate to the market, preheat the oven and put on music for dinner. 

In one scene, you're in a car driving down neighborhood streets. In another, you're in a market using the Assistant to convert grams to ounces while you're shopping for ingredients. All the while, a live narrator talks attendees through the attraction, like the voice of God. 

Google Booth CES 2020

The attraction takes you through various rooms, including a market and your house.

James Martin/CNET

The escape room is part of a big marketing blitz Google has crafted for CES. Just like in past years, the search giant has hired an army of people dressed in white outfits to teach attendees about the Assistant. The company has also plastered the words "Hey Google," the wake phrase for the software, onto the Las Vegas monorail.

The attraction is clever, though downscaled greatly from last year's ride. For that ride, the storyline was similar -- to help a frenzied dad get through a day of errands using the Assistant. 

Aside from the escape room, Google made several announcements on Tuesday. The search giant for the first time released user figures for the Assistant: 500 million people a month. Google also announced new privacy controls, smart home features and a way for the Assistant to read long-form text, like articles or blog posts, out loud in a natural sounding voice.