Google Assistant to Lose ‘Underutilized Features’

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Beyond cutting what looks to be nearly 1,000 jobs across various departments amid a reorganization of teams, Google is also planning to remove “underutilized features” within Google Assistant, its voice assistant that debuted seven years ago.

Duke Dukellis, Vice President of Google Assistant, said on Thursday major changes are coming, focusing on refining user experience and discontinuing less popular features.

“We’re removing some underutilized features in Google Assistant to focus on delivering the best possible user experience,” Dukellis stated.

“Assistant helps hundreds of millions of people around the world cross off their to-do lists,” said Dukellis.

Starting January 26, when users request one of these phased-out features, they may receive a notification about its discontinuation.

Here are some of the features Google outlined that are going the way of the dodo bird:

  • Discontinuation of voice-controlled audiobook playback on Google Play Books; casting from mobile still available.
  • Removal of media, music, and radio alarms on Google Assistant devices; custom Routines or standard alarms as alternatives.
  • No longer managing cookbooks or transferring recipes between devices; recipe search via Google Assistant across the web and YouTube remains.
  • Stopwatches on Smart Displays and Speakers removed; setting timers and alarms still possible.
  • Ending voice calls or messages to Google Family Group; broadcasting to home devices is unaffected.
  • Voice commands for sending emails, video, or audio messages discontinued; calls and text messages via voice still supported.
  • Rescheduling events in Google Calendar via voice no longer available; new event scheduling remains.
  • App Launcher in Google Assistant driving mode limited; voice control on Google Maps unchanged.
  • Scheduling or hearing Family Bell announcements via voice removed; custom Routines as a substitute.
  • Discontinuation of voice command meditation with Calm; other media providers like YouTube available for meditation.
  • Voice control on Fitbit Sense and Versa 3 devices removed; physical buttons required for activity control, Pixel Watches unaffected.
  • Sleep summaries only on Google Smart Displays; voice inquiries for sleep details on third-party clocks continue.
  • Caller ID on speakers and Smart Displays only via Duo; other calls lack caller ID.
  • No more ambient “Commute to Work” time estimates on Smart Displays; voice requests for commute times and directions still available.
  • Checking personal travel itineraries by voice ended; flight status inquiries via voice persist.
  • Voice inquiries about contacts discontinued; voice calls to contacts remain.
  • Certain voice actions like sending payments, making reservations, or posting to social media stopped; opening installed apps via Assistant still possible.

Another major change is the integration within the Google app. The microphone icon, mainly used for search queries, will no longer support actions like controlling smart devices or sending messages.

Instead, it will trigger Google Search results. Users can still activate Assistant using voice commands or by pressing the home or power button on select Android phones, or through the Google Assistant app on iOS.

Google acknowledges the potential disruption caused by these changes, but reassured users of a smooth transition. “Our improvements are driven by your feedback,” said Google. Users can share their comments directly with Google by saying, “Hey Google, send feedback.”

One of the teams that are seeing layoffs is the Google Assistant department, and these features being removed may be tied to the staff that oversaw them.

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