Google will expand the usefulness of voice commands beyond Android phones

Jon Fingas


Google will expand the usefulness of voice commands beyond Android phones

Google has helped app creators make better use of Assistant voice commands over time, but its longstanding Conversational Actions framework for those commands has had its limits. It's primarily meant for conventional Android mobile devices, and it's voice-only — the technology won't help much on your smartwatch, or when you need some on-screen interaction. The company is taking steps to make voice control more useful across all its platforms, though. It's expanding the App Actions framework to be more helpful for the entire Android ecosystem, and it's phasing out the old system in the process.

The company is in the midst of integrating App Actions across all Android-based platforms, including automotive platforms and wearables. Assistant can now point you to the relevant apps for a given command even when you don't mention an app's name, or when you're looking for the right software in "All Apps" on a Pixel 6. And if you don't have the app necessary for a command, you'll be taken to the appropriate Play Store page. These will help developers by boosting demand for their apps, of course, but they'll also help you focus on accomplishing tasks rather than crafting the exact phrase you need.

Developers will have a strong incentive to embrace the newer technology. Google is sunsetting Conversational Actions in June 2023, and plans to "turn down" features like console analytics at that point. The extra year will give app producers the time to learn App Actions and otherwise transition away from the earlier approach.

You might have seen this shift coming. Conversational Actions was introduced five years ago, only to be supplemented by App Actions (in an initially limited form) in 2019 — Google has been priming itself for a handover like this for a while. And with Google committing to major expansions of platforms like Android Auto and Wear OS, upgraded voice functionality is that much more important for the company.

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