You’ll soon be able to teach Google Assistant how to pronounce names

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Google Assistant is getting a better way to correct its name pronunciation, as well as improved contextual awareness when it comes to setting and changing timers with your voice. In the blog post announcing the changes, Google says they should be rolling out in the next few days.

If Assistant has been pronouncing your name wrong, the new way to try to fix that is pretty simple: you can just say your name out loud, and Google will try to learn the pronunciation. The old way, which is still available for those who wanted it, required you to spell out the way you wanted your name pronounced.

If you’re looking to try it for yourself, you can go to the Google Assistant settings, then Basic Info, then Nickname. It is worth noting that you can’t completely divorce your text name from the pronunciation — telling it to call me “Jennifer” while having my nickname as Mitchell resulted in it saying “Mithl” (like Mithril, without the ri).

The blog post and video also show that this will work for other contacts, too — great if you have friends whose names the Assistant constantly mispronounces.

Google’s also adding more contextual awareness to timers, using its language understanding tech known as “BERT.” Practically, this should unlock all sorts of functionality: the ability to say things like “cancel my second timer,” and canceling named timers without having to use the exact name that you gave (the example Google uses in its video is canceling a timer called “boiled potatoes” by saying “cancel my boiling potato timer”).

It should also fix a problem I’ve often run into: When you create an alarm, and then tell the Assistant to add an hour to it, it’ll most likely just create an alarm for an hour in the future. With the new language processing, it should understand that you actually want your alarm to go off an hour later than it was originally set for. It should also handle flubs better, like if you were to say “set a timer for five, no wait, nine minutes.”

Google says that this sort of natural conversation should be coming to more areas of the Assistant soon. For now, it seems that most of the work is being done around timers, but who knows where it’ll come to next? Google Assistant has done a pretty good job of being conversational in web searches for a while now, but the BERT tech could make it even more powerful.

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