Google Assistant

No ‘OK, Google’ on the iPhone? That’s a huge problem

Voicebots are all over my house right now.

I’m testing two different Alexa-powered speakers in my office. I use Cortana on a desktop, Siri on my MacBook and an iPhone 7 Plus, Google Assistant on a Pixel smartphone and the Google Home speaker, and both the Google Assistant and Siri on my television (thanks to the NVIDIA Shield and the Apple TV). I’m literally talking to bots all day, asking about the weather, the NBA Playoffs, and even obscure questions about Austria (where a few family members live). I’m known to suddenly say “OK, Google” during family meals when someone asks a question or makes a random comment. (Turns out, the Beauty and the Beast fable was published way back in 1740 and good old Tom Brady is the oldest quarterback in the NFL.)

Sadly, now that the Assistant is available for iPhone, I’m going to have to change my approach.

At a restaurant recently, I found out the hard way that the Assistant app doesn’t respond to “OK, Google” requests. It works exactly like any app on the iPhone that is not directly tied into the OS. That is, you can only talk to the iPhone by saying “Hey, Siri” to start a conversation. That’s not surprising at all. Android needs a few differentiators these days, right VentureBeat editorial team? Yet, the reason it’s sad is that there isn’t any reason to ever use the Assistant on iOS.

To do that, I’d…

How to control your connected home with Google Assistant

Whether you’re onboard or not, smart homes are the future. Of course, there are still a few quirks, and some devices are downright ridiculous. (Consider the Grillbot, an automatic grill cleaner, or the Davek Umbrella, with its “Loss Alert” sensor.)

But smart technology definitely has its benefits.

With a smart garage door opener, you can open and close your garage from your smartphone and monitor its status even when you’re away from home. With a smart lock, you can issue “keys” to guests, friends, or family, and even unlock the door from afar.

Internet-ready and cloud data systems allow data “packets” to be transferred over the internet from various platforms. These packets move from device to device and essentially drive the entire smart tech industry.

However, the real benefits of connected tech come into play when you can use voice commands with them. Alexa, from Amazon’s Echo, is a great example of this.

The real star of the show is Google Assistant, though. In the past, issuing voice commands to Google Assistant to interface with smart tech was a Google Home-only feature. With the latest version, everyone can take advantage of this — even iPhone users.

What makes it stand out from the competition? It’s the way in which you interact and talk with the assistant. It’s just more human and more natural: “OK, Google. Turn on my lights.”

Sadly, Google Assistant cannot control everything … yet. The list of brands with devices that can be controlled include Honeywell, Nest, Philips Hue, WeMo, SmartThings, and more. Rest assured: this list will be expanded in time.

You can read the full list of supported devices here.

First things first, though. You need to connect your smart home devices to the Google Assistant app on your phone. This is what tells the AI what you have and how it can be used.

To connect one of your supported gadgets to Assistant, use the following steps:

  1. Open Google Assistant.
  2. Tap the three dots in the upper right-hand corner to open the settings menu. Navigate to the “Home Control” option and choose it.
  3. Tap the “+” button to add devices. You’ll see a list of devices you can choose from — simply find yours. Once you choose a device, you’ll need to sign in to the related service.
  4. Once you’ve added all your devices, you must separate them by room. This allows Google Assistant to differentiate between control areas. For example: “living room” vs. “office.”
  5. Once it’s all set up, you can begin controlling your devices. Test it out with a simple command like “OK, Google, turn…

Google Assistant arrives on iPhone

At its I/O 2017 developer conference today, Google announced Google Assistant is coming to iOS today as a standalone app, rolling out to the U.S. first. Until now, the only way iPhone users could access Google Assistant was through Allo, the Google messaging app nobody uses.

Scott Huffman, vice president of Google Assistant engineering, made the announcement onstage. He also revealed that Google Assistant is already available on over 100 million Android devices. That’s Google’s way of hinting to developers that they should start building for the tool.

Huffman also added that Google Assistant is becoming available in more languages on both Android and iOS (it’s still English-only today). Support for French, German, Brazilian-Portuguese, and Japanese is coming later this summer while Italian, Spanish, and Korean will be available by the…

AI Weekly: Microsoft chases Amazon, Toyota taps Nvidia, humans brace for dystopia

Here’s this week’s newsletter:

This week, Amazon and Microsoft launched new attacks in the intelligent assistant wars.

On Tuesday, Amazon added a touchscreen to its Echo device and introduced calls and messaging. (This Sunday, don’t forget to say, “Alexa, call Mom.”)

And yesterday at the Build conference, Microsoft upped its ante by releasing a Cortana Skills Kit for developers and launching 26 new voice apps. Despite these salvos, as our Khari Johnson writes, Google Assistant has more than 230 actions from third-party developers. Amazon, which opened its Alexa Skills Kit to developers back in 2015, passed 10,000 skills three months ago.

Microsoft has some catching up to do.

Meanwhile, those who fear an AI-powered future may see these developments as more evidence that tech companies are like children playing catch with knives. Stephen Wolfram of Wolfram Research and Irwin Gotlieb of GroupM confronted the utopian and dystopian views of this issue at Collision 2017. Even as he welcomes technological advancements, Gotlieb warned, “There’s a little voice in the back of my head that’s saying the dystopian outcome is perhaps more likely.” (Watch the video below.)

For AI coverage, send news tips to Khari Johnson and guest post submissions to John Brandon. Please be sure to visit our AI Channel.

Thanks for reading,
Blaise Zerega
Editor in Chief

P.S. Please enjoy this video from Collision, “Is there a future for humans?”

From the AI Channel

Lurking beneath the fear of artificial intelligence and automation threatening people’s jobs lies a deeper, far more profound threat. Do artificial intelligence and automation imperil humanity itself? Those predicting a dystopian future include Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and many others. For some of them, it’s only a matter of time before the prophecy of Yuval Noah Harari’s […]

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang announced that Toyota will use Nvidia’s Drive PX supercomputers for autonomous vehicles. Those cars will debut in the market in the next few years, Huang said. The Drive PX uses a…

Backed by Andy Rubin, Lighthouse raises $17 million for its AI home assistant

Above: Lighthouse atop its mount. The device includes a camera visible in this shot. Above that is the 3D sensor and a night vision

A new intelligent assistant makes its debut today to compete with the likes of Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant. Lighthouse distinguishes itself from its competitors by using computer vision to detect and monitor activity within a home.

Until now, Lighthouse has operated in stealth since 2015. Today, the company also announced the close of a $17 million funding round, led by Eclipse Ventures with participation from Playground Ventures. Lighthouse and its 30 employees are based at Playground Ventures. Android co-creator Andy Rubin created the Playground Global incubator and office space for startups. Its $300 million investment fund closed in 2015.

Lighthouse can’t play you music or tell you jokes like Alexa or Cortana can. But the device’s makers explain that if other assistants are for giving you control of things when you’re home, Lighthouse is designed to deliver insights when you’re away from home.

A simple voice or text search can tell you when your kids get home, whether they’ve been running in the house, and if the cat or the kid broke a vase while you were at work. Should your teen bring their significant other over without supervision, Lighthouse can see it, alert you, and patch you in to speak with the young couple.

The device was made by cofounder Alex Teichman and CTO Hendrik Dahlkamp, two early adopters of 3D sensors and self-driving cars who met at Stanford University.

Dahlkamp was an engineer at Google X and a…

How to Find Out if a Smarthome Device Works with Alexa, Siri, or Google Home and Assistant

Now that voice assistants are becoming extremely popular, many users who want to outfit their living spaces with smarthome products are probably wanting these products to be compatible with their voice assistant, whether it’s Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant (and Google Home). Here’s how to find out whether or not a smarthome device works with these platforms.

Look for the Badge on the Product Box

Perhaps the easiest and quickest way to see if a smarthome device is compatible with the voice assistant of your choice is to take a look at the product’s packaging and look for the badge that says what it supports.

Somewhere on the box you’ll find a small badge that says something like “Works with Apple HomeKit” or “Works with Amazon Alexa”. You may also just see the Amazon Echo logo, which also tells you that it works with Alexa.

However, keep in mind that some product boxes won’t have these badges printed on them even though they fully support Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant. Philips Hue boxes, for instance, only have the HomeKit badge, even though they’re natively supported by Alexa and Google Assistant as well. Because of that, you may want to look for a second source.

Visit the Product’s Website

If the product box doesn’t mention anything about which voice…

Google published, and then pulled, an I/O action for Google Home

Google appears to have launched a voice app to talk to you about its annual I/O developer conference, set to take place May 17-19 at the Shoreline Ampitheatre in Mountain View, California. Unfortunately, the conversation action made by Google for its assistant on the Google Home smart speaker didn’t work.

Repeated attempts by VentureBeat to speak with the Google I/O 17 action about the I/O keynote speech, the date, and location — questions the action tells you to ask it on Google Home app — were met with silence.

Around 2 p.m. PT Monday the action was pulled from the Google Home app and could no longer be called upon when speaking with the Google Assistant on Google Home.

Based on news and activity in recent months, a broad range of potential announcements could be made at Google I/O as it relates to the Assistant and the Google Home smart speaker, both of which made their debut at I/O last year.

Perhaps Google could release its own smart speaker with computer vision to compete with Alexa’s new Echo Look.

Or, instead of going for fashion and computer vision, the next-gen Google Home could go for utility and quality. Last month The Information…