Google is tidying up its popular voice assistant service Google Assistant, removing over 15 niche features in an effort to enhance “quality and reliability.” The news comes amid layoffs across Google’s hardware, Assistant and Cloud divisions.
Beginning January 26th, users attempting to access the following Google Assistant capabilities will be notified they are being discontinued:
- Playing audiobooks
- Setting media alarms
- Accessing cookbooks and recipes
- Using stopwatch feature
- Broadcasting messages across devices
- Sending emails, videos or voice messages hands-free
- Rescheduling calendar events
- Controlling media and messaging via Google Maps
- Scheduling Family Bell reminders
- Meditating with Calm
- Starting/stopping workouts on Fitbit devices
- Viewing sleep summaries on non-Google devices
- Anonymous caller ID for Google Assistant calls
- Checking commute times on Smart Displays
- Accessing personal travel itineraries
- Viewing contacts
- Taking actions like sending payments or making reservations
While workarounds exist for some functions, most will simply become unavailable. Google stated the cuts will allow focusing engineering resources on improving core capabilities.
Additionally, the Google app and Pixel device’s microphone icons will trigger general web searches rather than device actions like adjusting smart home devices. Users can still activate the full Assistant experience through the “Hey Google” voice command.
Google invited users to provide feedback on the changes, likely to gauge reactions and determine if additional niche capabilities should also be pruned in the future. While only affecting a subset of users, the cuts illustrate Google’s attempts to hone its AI assistant as competition intensifies against Alexa and Siri.