Google Assistant CES 2019

Standing out in a city that is, itself, made of spectacle and flash is no easy feat. Add the fact that the whole point of voice technology is to eliminate complex or distracting visuals. So to call attention to Google Assistant and its latest announcements at CES in Las Vegas, the search giant had to get creative.

In addition to buying high-profile ad space over an entrance to the Las Vegas Convention Center, displaying the Google Assistant’s trigger phrase — “Hey Google” — the tech company built a literal playground complete with roller coaster, so it could showcase the usefulness of its voice assistant.

Reporters took a ride that traveled through various vignettes illustrating the voice tech’s usefulness in different scenarios — such as roads suggesting Google Maps usage, traffic where one might launch navigation or text an estimated time of arrival, a setting filled with French desserts, pointing to the tech’s brand-new language interpreter mode, among others.

Altogether, the ride takes roughly three minutes, which is much shorter than the company’s actual list of announcements.

Like Amazon, Google is aggressively spreading its voice assistant to all corners of life.

The company touts partnerships with Lenovo, Whirlpool, Sonos, Dish, Instant Pot and others to support Google Assistant in newer generation products — such as smart clocks and cooking appliances. TV giants such as Samsung, Sony, Hisense, Philips, TCL, Xiaomi, Haier, JVC and Toshiba will have people talking to their big screens. And auto accessory-makers such as Anker and JBL will keep Google’s voice tech riding shotgun. as a hands-free interfaces.

The Android- and Wear OS-maker is also doing what it does best — it turned the assistant into a platform. Google Assistant Connect gives hardware companies a set of tools, so they can integrate the tech into their devices.

Amazon and Alexa have a head start with capability of more than 70,000 skills. But Google’s considerable expertise in building platforms, as well as its assistant’s ubiquity in speakers, appliances and mobile devices, could tip things in the other direction this year.

As for functionality, the use cases continue to expand and mature. The prospect of easily checking into flights and getting language translations will likely please a lot of people, assuming they work well. Google also made it faster and easier to directly interact with the assistant right on smartphone lockscreens. And people who use Google Maps for navigation will be able to send estimated times of arrival by just talking to the app.

Improving that mobile experience is a smart strategy. According to IDC, Android represents 86.8 percent of the world’s mobile OS market. No doubt, the company is aware that a massive load of people already walk around with its voice tech in their pockets, by default.

In other words, if Google can entice people to use Google Assistant with appealing, native mobile features and offer a consistent, useful experience across their homes, then 2019 could make for a tipping point.

The Google roller coaster continues.