Google updates Assistant and Fi with family-oriented features

Google has announced new family-oriented updates for Assistant and Fi, which can be potentially useful whether you’ve all been under the same roof for the duration of the pandemic or you’re making plans to visit for the holidays.

Assistant’s changes are primarily focused on smart displays like the Nest Hub Max, in which a number of old and new features will be collected in a new section called the “Family Tab.”

Family Notes “stick” to the main screen of your display. Image: Google

The first new addition is Family Notes, which lets you dictate sticky note-styled messages for to-dos and reminders. The notes “stick” to the main screen of your smart display so that they’re visible to whomever uses the display next.

Family Bell is receiving new sound effects. Image: Google

Continuing with the family organization theme, Assistant’s Family Bell feature, which uses chimes to set reminders for the at-home day, is also getting a slight update, with new sound effects and suggested bells. Google says it plans to add the ability to pause all bells for the day when you’re enjoying some hard-earned time off as well.

Interactive stories for smart displays. Image: Google

To fill that off time, Assistant is getting a couple of new education and entertainment options for families with younger children. Using the new voice command, “Hey Google, what can I learn with my family?” the updated smart display can provide learning activities from providers like ABCmouse for kids to complete.

If something entertaining is more your speed, Assistant’s “Hey Google, tell me a story” command can bring up new interactive stories for smart displays that allow you to flip through pages, read along word by word, and view custom animations.

“Hey Google, where’s my family?” Image: Google

Rounding off Assistant’s family features is a new command for getting updates on your family’s whereabouts. You can ask, “Hey Google, where’s my family?” or ask about a specific family member and Assistant can pull up their last known location on Google Maps. This feature requires a family account with Google, participating family members to be over the age of 13, and location sharing to be turned on in Google Maps or partnered apps like Life360.

Expanded parental controls on Fi

For Fi, the updates mainly expand parental controls on the cell service. Parents can block calls and texts from strangers, along with setting a data budget so kids don’t run up the bill downloading videos or games. Google also says it’s made it easier to set up its Family Link service on children’s Android phones, so parents can create content filters and limit screentime. Fi-specific features are available at no additional cost; Family Link is a free download on Google Play and the App Store.

Google says updates to Fi should arrive over the course of the next week. There’s no specific date for Assistant’s updates, but Google says the Family Tab should arrive by the end of the year and I’d expect the new features to do the same.

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