Google is continuing to roll out new features for Assistant whenever a set of them becomes ready and today it’s announcing a bunch of updates for Spring 2021. Given how much more we’re ordering takeout and staying home, these revolve around simplifying the restaurant checkout process and making it easier to automate your smart home.
Google’s been using its Duplex AI technology to help it update restaurant business information in Maps, and back when we went out more, it also helped users make reservations over the phone. This week, Duplex will help you complete your payments when you’re ordering via a restaurant’s website. You’ll need to first search for the eatery on the Google App on Android, tap “Order Online” and select your items. When you’re ready to check out and if you’re at one of Google’s partnered restaurants, Assistant will “automatically navigate the site and fill out your contact and payment details saved in Google Pay and synced to Chrome Autofill.”
Of course, if you already use services like GrubHub, Uber Eats, Seamless or Postmates, this might not be a whole lot more convenient. But for restaurants that have partnered with Google and that aren’t on any of the most popular delivery platforms, this could greatly simplify the checkout process. Plus, you won’t have to hand over your payment information to yet another platform and have Google keep it in its memory. This feature is available with select restaurant chains at the moment, and the company says it plans to add more US establishments later this year.
iPhone users who have Google’s smart home devices can also expect something new. This week, you’ll be able to ask your Assistant-powered displays or speakers “Find my phone” and it’ll ping your missing device. While this was already available for Android devices, the implementation for iOS was clunky, involving Assistant dialing your phone number. It wasn’t a truly native experience. Now, iPhones that have the Google Home app installed and notifications enabled will get a notification and ring even if they’re silenced or on Do Not Disturb.
The rest of this week’s Assistant updates are mostly about Routines. Google is introducing a new sunrise or sunset Routine today that will let you time a set of actions to your local morning or evening onsets. Some other services like Belkin’s Wemo have had the ability to time your lights to the daily sunset or sunrise schedule for years, but Google offers more functions.
To encourage you to set up more Routines, the company is adding a new section in the ready-made Routines section of the Home app to highlight popular sequences. You can see what other users have set up in their homes so you can implement (or rip off) the ones you like. The Routines updates are available globally now.