In the original Star Trek series aired in the 1960s, one of the most innovative ideas was the voice-controlled computer that could be instructed simply, in natural language, to perform various tasks. Then, in 1968’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, things got a wrong turn with the legendary HAL 9000 – luckily, this trauma was forgotten. Giving voice commands to a computer has become not just a science fiction trope but a real-life goal for engineers and programmers around the world, resulting in the emergence of digital assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Google’s Assistant.
Today, we have smart speakers in our homes, smart TVs, and soon we’ll have other smart appliances that we’ll be able to control using our voice alone. And we have a smart assistant on pretty much every phone running Android, no matter if it’s the perfect handset you can buy in New Zealand or a more affordable one you get in Kampala or Mumbai.
Google Assistant is overlooked by many smartphone owners – after all, who would speak to a phone when it has such a big touchscreen that you can use to give it pretty much every command you want. Here are, in turn, a few commands you can give your phone that will probably make your life easier without you having to lift a finger.
There are times when picking up your phone is simply impractical: while you bike, while you drive, while you carry the groceries, and so on. Making a call in such a situation involves stopping what you do and searching for the contact you want to call. Or, it could simply be done by voice command: “OK Google, call [contact]”.
If you want to use this feature, you will need to opt into Assistant listening to you while your phone is locked. With this function turned on, you will be able to initiate phone calls while your phone sits safely on your car’s dashboard or in your pocket while you bike and run.
Reminders and alarms
Setting a reminder on a phone may be a pain – but not with Google Assistant. You can simply say “OK Google, Remind me to [task] at [time and date]” and you are done. You can set one-off reminders (Remind me at 6 PM to let the cat out) or recurring ones (Remind me every weekday at 7 AM to let the cat in). And if you want to see what reminders you have, simply say “OK Google, list my reminders for [date]” and it will list them for you.
Similarly, you can set alarms using your Google Assistant: “OK Google, set alarm for every weekday at 6 AM” – and you’re done. It’s even easier to set a countdown timer: “OK Google, timer for # minutes”.
Google Calendar is a pretty useful service that’s always at hand – it’s free, easy to use, and comes bundled with all the other Google services when you create an account. And it works well with Google Assistant.
To add an appointment to your Calendar, you can simply say “OK Google, add to my calendar” or “make an appointment” followed by the date, the time, perhaps even the place of the appointment. For example, you can say “OK Google, make an appointment for tomorrow at 5 PM at Luigi’s Pizza with Helen” – this will create a Calendar entry for the next day at 5 PM with the title “Luigi’s Pizza with Helen”.
To check your schedule for the day (or the next), simply say “OK Google, my agenda for [date]” and it will list your Calendar entries for the specified date (reading the first one out aloud).
Google Assistant is a service available on almost every Android-powered smartphone today – there is no reason why you shouldn’t use it, especially when it can make your life easier. Even if only in small ways like the ones above.