What is Google Assistant?

Google Assistant is a voice-activated software agent that performs smartphone-, computer-, or device-related tasks in response to direct commands, pre-set schedules or by attempting to predict a user's upcoming needs based on their past actions. It was first introduced in 2016 and today competes with other so-called "virtual assistants" such as Microsoft Cortana, Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa.

Google Assistant is the default virtual assistant preinstalled on many Android smartphones. It also provides the advanced capabilities that enable popular smart speakers such as Google Home and smart displays such as the Lenovo Smart Display.

How is Google Assistant used?

Google Assistant and products like it are changing the way people manage daily activities, control their personal environment, and summon information when and where they need it. Installed on a smartphone or in a smart speaker or smart display (to name just a few options), Google Assistant can do anything from sending email messages and calling up local weather forecasts to, with proper integration, controlling home thermostats or submitting pizza orders.

Like other virtual assistants, Google Assistant is programmed to constantly listen for human voices, specifically for its activation phrase "OK Google" or "Hey Google." Once it hears those words, Google Assistant attempts to complete whatever request or command it hears, and -- depending on the device where it is installed -- can engage in two-way conversation with users ("You want me to find your smartphone, is that right?").

What can Google Assistant do?

From making calls to searching the web, Google Assistant's native functions are extensive. And if you already use Google apps such as Gmail, Google Photos or Google Duo, then Google Assistant can be put to use almost instantly to send messages, find pictures, and initiate video calls using those services.

The extended capabilities of Google Assistant grow seemingly every day, as new third-party services and devices are built to work with it. Changing the room temperature, locking or unlocking your front door, ordering groceries -- it's all possible when you integrate your personal online services or home automation systems with a virtual agent such as Google Assistant.

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