After several big leaks, Google finally unveiled headphones with Google Assistant built-in this week. That functionality is debuting on the Bose QC35 II, but Google hasn’t done a good job advertising why this feature is worth buying into. Now, a Googler has given his two cents on the topic.

The best gifts for Android users

Ian Lake, an engineer on the Android team at Google, took to Google+ yesterday to talk about why Assistant built-in headphones are such as big deal. He points out that the main differentiator here is the “VUI” or Voice UI. That not only offers up the standard Google Assistant functionality but also notifications and more.

For example, headphones with Assistant built-in can read out notifications with context such as the name of a person texting you. Also, these headphones can interact with Assistant with a “push-to-talk” button, as well as accessing some of Assistant’s more advanced functions, such as reminders, appointments, and more. He further explains:

So if you’ve used any Bluetooth headphones before, you probably have a ‘call’ button. Long pressing on that button on recent versions of Android would trigger Google Assistant. So that’s not anything particular exciting. These headphones do a lot more than that though.

My personal favorite feature and why I prefer these headphones over all my others is the VUI (Voice UI) around reading and responding to notifications. While regular notifications will play their chime just like on normal headphones, these headphones can detect messaging notifications and will instead read the name of the person (super important context usually missing). From there, a simple tap of the button will read the notification out loud (this works with any notification!). For messaging notifications, you also get the chance to reply, directly from the headphones by holding down the button. No having to say ‘ok google’ or have it transcribe a few extra second at the end. The ‘push to talk’ model is surprisingly nice on headphones.

Even when there isn’t a notification just coming in, tapping the Google Assistant button is so much more useful. Besides bringing up any notifications you may have long since missed, I’ve also gotten Google Assistant driven suggestions like the time to leave for my next calendar appointment.

And I think something that is underrated by people who have Android devices, but these features also work when connected to iOS devices through the Google Assistant app on iOS. I wouldn’t underestimate how impactful that is for iOS users who previously haven’t had the ability to use anything but Siri on headphones.


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