What Will Make Home Assistants Actually Useful? 11 New Features and Updates to Look Forward To

A review on the latest updates scheduled to come to our favorite home assistants.
Kashyap Vyas
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Home assistants have become a hot favorite these days. Just a few years ago, it was only a science fiction. In 2018 though, things are different.

To give a rough estimate of the scope of home automation, one in every six homes in America now owns a smart speaker! This number is only expected to rise in the future.

Nowadays, you can come home and command the voice assistants to do things for you. Adjusting the air conditioning, lights, appliances, and the list goes on.

But we should understand that even now, home automation technology is still relatively new. What we see today is just a glimpse of the great things that we can achieve in the future with Home Assistants.

Let us see what all features are in store for various home assistants and how they stack up against each other.

1.  Google home assistant gets continuity in communication

What Will Make Home Assistants Actually Useful? 11 New Features and Updates to Look Forward To
Source: NDB Photos/Flickr

One of the annoyances with Google home presently is that the user needs to say “hey Google” for each and every question. Google has also realized that this does not go well with the increasing number of users.

Hence, Google Assistant will now have support for taking in a series of commands in one conversation. For example, if you say “I’m home” after coming from work, the assistant will adjust everything inside the home to your liking. The lighting, appliances, etc. will be just as you like it.

This feature called Routines was announced last year and is now available in the US and you can fully customize your own Routines as per your requirements.

2.  Google assistant will now make calls for you

If you want your home to be truly automated, then the Google Assistant should make your lives much easier. The home assistant will soon have a feature update that will enable it to make phone calls and make appointments with shops or restaurants for you.

This feature is truly something that signifies the name “assistant”! The calling feature is called Duplex, and it can even mimic the subtle nuances that a human makes while engaged in a conversation!

 3.  Google Assistant to teach your kid (manners)!

Many homeowners showed their concern that using commands to engage the home assistant are quite impolite in front of the kids. It kind of shows a bit of ingratitude. Google has addressed the problem by introducing a feature that would enable the home assistant to show appreciation when the user uses words like “please,” “thank you’, etc.

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Also, when the kids ask the assistant a question without including polite words, the assistant would reply back with “what’s the magic word?”

4.  Smart assistants with screens

Most of the home assistants are just a box that houses a microphone, processor and a speaker. But that is going to change soon as manufacturers are now considering adding screens to the smart devices.

This surely increases the level of responsiveness from the speaker but also helps to convey information better and quicker. In addition, it can be used for video conference and show results from search engines.

5.  Alexa getting a memory update

What Will Make Home Assistants Actually Useful? 11 New Features and Updates to Look Forward To
Source: BestAI Assistant/ Flickr

The home assistant from Amazon is one of the most favored home assistants out there. There is work in process for a new update that will enable Alexa to remember important dates and events that the users tell it to remember.

 “With this capability, Alexa can remember any information for you so that you never forget. Alexa can store arbitrary information you want and retrieve it later,” said Ruhi Sarikaya, Director of Applied Science, Alexa Machine Learning. “This memory feature is the first of many launches this year that will make Alexa more personalized.”

6.  Alexa also gets conversation continuum

Google Assistant won't be the only assistant capable of continued conversation as Alexa is right in its tracks. There is a new feature called “Context Carryover” that enables the users to ask to follow up questions or commands without the need to call out Alexa.

7.  Learn skills with Alexa

Sometimes you might need actual help rather than a piece of general information. Alexa is being integrated with a feature called skills arbitration that would enable the users to get advice and guidance on the basic home tasks and needs.

Alexa will find the most relevant information and read it out to you in such a way that you can control the situation easily.


“For example, using an Echo Show device, I recently asked: ‘Alexa, how do I remove an oil stain from my shirt?’ She replied: ‘Here is Tide Stain Remover,’ Ruhi Sarikaya said. “This beta experience was friction-free; the skill just walked me through the process of removing an oil stain from my shirt. Previously, I would have had to discover the skill on my own to use it.”

8.  Kid friendly FreeTime

Alexa is also not far behind Google when it comes to child-friendliness. The FreeTime integration announced last month for Alexa help parents to control what their kids can do with the smart home assistant.

Alexa’s personality will have a more educational intent and will be kid-friendly with the FreeTime integration.

“With Echo Dot Kids Edition and FreeTime on Alexa, parents can have peace of mind knowing their kids are getting age-appropriate content, while they listen to music, ask questions, enjoy Audible books, use Alexa skills, and more. We can’t wait for parents and kids to try this out,” said Dave Limp, Senior Vice President, Amazon Devices and Services.

What Will Make Home Assistants Actually Useful? 11 New Features and Updates to Look Forward To
Source: Apple

9.  Apple AirPlay 2

One of the most discussed drawbacks of Apple’s attempt at home automation A.K.A HomePod was the lack of support and features. Apple is set to clear its name by bringing various features into its home pods, and the Apple AirPlay 2 will be the first of many.

Apple AirPlay 2 will enable users to control music through the HomePod, and rumors suggest that multi-room support is also coming with the update.

10. Identifying multiple users

The HomePod is expected to get an update that enables it to recognize users by voice and provide tailored responses. This might explain why the HomePod currently had muted microphones. 

This feature is highly anticipated as different users of the home can communicate with HomePod and have personalized suggestions/answers.

11. Pair two for a stereo setup

It is no secret that Apple HomePod is the best sounding speaker when compared with the offerings of Google and Amazon. With Airplay 2, users will be able to pair two Home pods together using their iPhone so that they can get a stereo setup.

The Future is AI

Home automation using AI is becoming more human than ever before. With a vision to make lives easier, the smart speakers and devices are becoming our personal homemakers.

The features we have listed is just the tip of an iceberg, as developers are making new and improved ways to make Home assistants more intuitive.

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