Google Assistant gets better at understanding context and pronouncing names

Google Assistant gets better at understanding context and pronouncing names

Google has announced it’s making important improvements to its Natural Language Understanding (NLU) models in an effort to address issues related to Google Assistant. Specifically, recognizing context around conversations, and also pronouncing less common names.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Google said you can teach Google Assistant to enunciate and recognize names of your contacts the way you pronounce them. The video below demonstrates the improvements in action.

According to Google, you can train Assistant to listen to your pronunciation and remember it — without keeping a recording of your voice. So, the next time you want to call or text a contact who has a less common name, Google Assistant will be able to better assist you.

Meanwhile, going forward Google Assistant will be better about understanding context. Google said it rebuilt Assistant’s NLU models using machine learning technology powered by BERT, which the search giant invented in 2018 and first brought to Search. The technology makes it possible to process words in relation to all the other words in a sentence, rather than one-by-one in order.

Google specifically highlights a situation where you might set multiple timers at once.

“Maybe you’ve got a 10-minute timer for dinner going at the same time as another to remind the kids to start their homework in 20 minutes,” Google said. “You might fumble and stop mid sentence to correct how long the timer should be set for, or maybe you don’t use the exact same phrase to cancel it as you did to create it.”

With the latest improvements, Google Assistant can respond nearly 100 percent accurately to alarms and timer tasks. Google said that it also applied BERT to improve the quality of conversations. Assistant will use previous interactions and understand what’s displayed on your screen to respond to follow-up questions.

The result will be more natural back and forth interactions. For example, if you’re talking to Assistant about Miami, you can say “show me the nicest beaches,” and it will know you’re talking about beaches in Miami.

These new updates will be rolling out over the next few days in English, with plans to expand them to more languages soon.

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Brandon Russell
Brandon Russell

Brandon's love of technology can be traced back to his childhood, when he would obsessively watch Back to the Future. Since then he's followed the industry and its many innovations, from handheld consoles to powerful smartphones. He's still waiting on a hoverboard.