How to Make Google Assistant More Useful

Most of Google’s mobile apps and services are connected to the AI-driven Google Assistant service in some way, as are dozens of the most popular non-Google Android apps. You can use the Google Assistant to automate a wide range of connected tasks, such as to call, text, or email someone from your contacts list; retrieve driving directions from Google Maps; play a YouTube Music or Pandora playlist; create a calendar appointment; or (if you have a Google Nest-connected home) check to see if the lights are on in your house.

To get the most out of Google Assistant, your Contacts, Calendar, and Maps services should be configured to align with your intent. The key configuration tasks are explained below.

Data Quality in Google Contacts

Your Contacts app has fields for a name, title, physical address, email address, and multiple phone numbers. People often add a new contact quickly and don’t take the time to fill in the details properly later, or they have transferred their contacts list from one phone to the next over a period of many years, so the majority of the metadata fields are empty or wrong (such as labeling a work phone number as ‘Home’). The more complete and accurate your Contacts entries are, the more Google Assistant can do with them.

For instance if you were to ask Google Assistant to call your dentist’s office, and your dentist is listed in your Google Contacts as Dr. Rosen, and her office address is a multi-tenant office complex with many different medical and dental providers, then Assistant will probably ask you to be more specific. It could also be a problem if you were to say: “Hey Google, call Dad,” and your father’s Contact entry is his full name, or if you have multiple entries like Dad Florida Timeshare and Dad cell and Dad work. If you were to consolidate those entries and fill out the metadata appropriately, Google Assistant wouldn’t need any extra steps to ensure it was calling the right number.

Adding Metadata to Google Calendar

Similar to the Google Contacts data quality issue, your Google Calendar entries should be as complete as possible to ensure optimal Google Assistant integration. For instance if your next dentist appointment is in your Calendar with the title Checkup, and it isn’t associated with your dentist’s entry in Google Contacts, then Assistant may not accurately interpret your intent when you say: “Hey Google, when is my next dentist appointment?”

Defining Places in Google Maps

Google Assistant relies on Google Maps for everything related to appointment reminders and travel time estimates. In your Google Maps settings, you can use Your Places to define nicknames for certain addresses. The two default places are Home and Work. If you’ve favorited (starred) any addresses that you need to remember (such as a friend’s house, or your dentist’s office) they’ll show up in the Saved tab. The Visited tab shows public places and businesses that Google knows you’ve visited in the past.

The more destinations you put into Your Places, the more useful the Google Assistant service will be. Adding your regular grocery store will get you an accurate response when you ask: “Hey Google, how late is Publix open?” The places that correspond with appointments will enable Google Assistant to calculate how long it’s going to take to get there, the best route to take, and what time you should leave in order to arrive on time. You can even get a custom notification on your device (which can be pushed to a smartwatch) that will tell you when it’s time to leave.

These are just a few tips for one among a multitude of valuable Google services that I’ve documented in Google Power Search.

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