Google Assistant Adds Read Aloud, Sensor Support Features

Read It is a new Google Assistant feature that reads web pages out loud in 42 languages. Accessible through browsers and Android smartphones, it is launched by saying “Hey Google, read it” or “Hey Google, read this page.” Users can adjust the reading speed, and the feature highlights words as they are read out loud. Buttons can be used to skip forward or backward in the text or pause the reading. Google also added native support for sensors in Google Assistant, and a special device type for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Digital Trends reports that Google Assistant is able to read pages in “expressive and natural voices,” with human-like intonations. The user can pick the desired language via the Read It’s translation menu and “Google Assistant will automatically translate the text before reading it out loud.”

Developers can integrate the feature into new mobile apps, and users can block it by using the “nopagereadaloud” tag. Read It can be used to listen to the news while driving as well as “help people with visual impairments or reading difficulties.” Users can also avail themselves of Read It combined with Google Assistant’s feature to change its voice and accent. Until March 23, singer John Legend’s voice is available; HBO’s “Insecure” actress Issa Rae’s voice is also available.

Apple unveiled a similar feature in its iOS 13, “which allows Siri to automatically read incomings messages aloud if the iPhone’s owner is wearing second-generation AirPods, AirPods Pro, Powerbeats Pro, or Beats Solo Pro.”

Android Police reports that Google Assistant is adding native support for sensors that will be “properly documented for third-party developers and gadget makers.” That should enable them to make “sensor-only devices that measure humidity, temperature, air quality, brightness, motion, or open/close state” that could be directly added to the user’s Google Home setup.

Security systems will also benefit, since “each sensor can now be added individually and report its state.” Google also created “a special device type for smoke detectors and CO detectors, which would give them different icons and commands from other sensors.”

Android Police notes that, “the Nest Protect may finally be compatible with Assistant and find itself in your Google Home app.” But there are limits; “currently, the only thing these devices will do is answer your questions, but their addition paves the way for passive alerts and automations.” Google Home, for example, could alert the user “if motion is detected when the security system is armed.” Assistant could be set to open a smart window “as soon as CO is detected.” Although Google hasn’t spun out any scenarios, “sensor support is a pre-requisite for all of them.”