For the second year in a row, Alphabet's Google (GOOGL) - Get Report is pulling out all the stops at CES to promote Google Assistant to hardware firms, developers and the media. This time around, it's also using the event to unveil several new Assistant features.
At a press event held on Tuesday morning, Google announced that Assistant will now be integrated with Google Maps. The company highlighted its attempts to make Assistant work well with messaging apps while running in Maps -- for example, drivers can use their voices to quickly fire off texts informing someone of their ETA -- as well as to access Maps content.
Users on the go will also be able to use Assistant to check into flights and (in a move that opens up a fresh revenue-generating opportunity) book hotel rooms. United Airlines (UAL) - Get Report is an initial partner for the flight check-in feature.
A new Interpreter mode, meanwhile, allows two users speaking different languages to effortlessly hold a conversation using a common Assistant app. In a demo, Google execs speaking English and French, respectively, effortlessly held a conversation after the English-speaking exec issued a command of "Hey Google, be my French interpreter."
Google also announced some new moves meant to further grow Assistant's hardware ecosystem. A new developer platform called Google Assistant connect aims to make it easier for hardware makers to create IoT devices that can be controlled with Assistant, as well as make the devices less costly. And a year after unveiling Assistant-powered "smart displays" -- Google would eventually launch one of its own, the Home Hub -- Google announced Assistant will now power "smart clocks" that are meant to be placed by a user's bed.
Thanks in part to strong integration with Google Search and other Google services, as well as the company's AI/machine learning strengths, Google Assistant has generally performed quite well in third-party tests pitting popular voice assistants against each other.
Google used its demo to showcase Assistant's arguably unmatched ability to accurately field information requests and understand the intent of natural-language requests. Among other things, the company showed Assistant fielding requests for the name of a volcano in Iceland that's impossible to pronounce (it's called Eyjafjallajökull), a user's photos of cows in Switzerland (Google Photos automatically tagged the photos in question) and the heights of Khloe Kardashian and her boyfriend (he was unnamed in the query).
Just before CES, Google disclosed that Assistant is expected to be available on one billion devices by the end of this month, up from 500 million last May. The company also said Assistant's active user count has quadrupled over the last year, albeit without giving any specific numbers.
Alphabet shares rose 0.9% to $1,085.37 on Tuesday.