“Quick phrases” is a new feature currently under development for Google Assistant that could one day let you skip having to say “Hey, Google” for common phrases like “What time is it?” or “Turn the lights on,” 9to5Google reports. The feature is yet to be officially announced, and it’s unclear when it might launch or exactly which devices might support it.
The feature emerged back in April under the codename “Guacamole.” At the time it was called “Voice shortcuts,” and its capabilities seemed limited to silencing alarms and timers, or responding to incoming phone calls. But the new menu discovered by 9to5Google shows a much broader range of tasks, or “salsas” as Google is nicknaming them. These salsas include the ability to ask about the weather, skip songs, or set alarms and timers in addition to just silencing them.
From the settings menu, it appears as though you’ll need to individually enable specific commands to get them to work without a wake word, and then Voice Match will be used to ensure they only respond to your unique voice. Another menu item suggests that the phrases can be set to work across other Google Assistant devices in addition to your own phone.
9to5Google speculates that the feature works by expanding the list of wake phrases an Assistant device is actively listening for. By default, the software is only listening for a “Hey, Google” or “OK, Google” wake phrase, but presumably if you’ve added “What time is it?” as a Quick Phrase this effectively becomes a wake phrase of its own.
A similar feature, introduced in 2019, already exists for Google’s Nest smart speakers and displays that lets you silence an alarm without needing to say a wake word first. Quick Phrases expands this functionality dramatically to potentially encompass a wide variety of other common tasks.
It’s an intriguing feature, especially for smart home controls that are best activated quickly and without much thought. But Google’s software will have its work cut out if it wants to avoid mistaking other random sounds for its expanded list of wake phrases.
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