How Google Assistant helps you get things done

Google Assistant is ready to help you get things done, anytime, anywhere. When you ask a question or tell it to do something, Assistant wants to respond to your request in the most helpful way possible - whether you want assistance with everyday tasks, controlling smart home devices, enjoying music or games, communicating with friends and family, getting quick answers or local information, or many other things.

To accomplish this, Assistant needs to understand what you’re asking for, the intent behind your request, to find the best way to help you get that done. This goal is at the center of how Assistant works.

Learn more below about the main factors that help determine how Assistant understands and responds to your request:

Understanding your request

If you interact with Assistant by voice, our speech recognition technology converts your request to text. Next, Assistant analyzes the text, in combination with useful information such as recent requests or the type of device you are using, to identify possible interpretations.

For example, if you say "Hey Google, stop," you might want to stop one of two timers that are running, music that’s playing, or a routine that’s running. You might also want to see search results for “Stop,” or something else entirely.

To weigh the options, Assistant compiles a list of the different interpretations of your request and how it would respond to each one. The next step is to rank these options to find the best way to fulfill your request.

Ranking the available responses

Many signals help Assistant rank the available responses, including the following main factors:

  • How sure Assistant is that it understood what you asked.
  • Whether a response is actually available for a particular interpretation of your request.
  • How satisfied previous users were with a particular response to similar requests.
  • How recently the response was created, to help you get a variety of fresh, high-quality responses.
  • How well a response works on the device that you are using. For example, responses that are optimized for devices with screens are likely to be ranked lower on speakers. On a partner device where Assistant is built-in, if you ask for something specific to that device, such as changing the volume or playing a movie, the device manufacturer may handle some or all of the response, according to what the partner decides is the best user experience.
  • What else you asked for recently. For example, if you say, “Hey Google, start a five minute timer,” and then shortly after say, "Hey Google, stop," Assistant may use your earlier request to understand what you mean.
  • What you are currently doing on your device, such as which app you have open when you ask Assistant for help, or what Assistant is already helping you with. For example, if you are listening to music and you say “Hey Google, skip,” Assistant jumps to the next song. Similarly, if you are part of the way through making a restaurant reservation using Assistant, it prioritizes completing the reservation above other possible responses.
  • In limited circumstances, some high-quality responses may be manually curated to rank higher, for the purpose of improving the user experience. For example, to help users get timely information about COVID-19 and mitigate misinformation that could risk public safety, we may curate information from authoritative sources like the World Health Organization and governmental health authorities.

These main factors for ranking are weighted differently based on how you’re engaging Assistant and your personal preferences, as explained below.

Choosing a provider

Assistant can respond to some types of requests by connecting you with responses provided by other creators and businesses, as well as responses from Google. For example, you can ask for a game from your favorite creator, "Hey Google, play [name of game]," and Assistant starts that game. You can also make a general request, “Hey Google, play a game,” which could be fulfilled by a number of different providers that have told Assistant they offer games. In situations where more than one provider can fulfill the request, Assistant selects a provider by applying the following rules in this order:

  1. If you’ve chosen a provider, Assistant selects that provider. For example, you may have picked a preferred music provider through Assistant settings or setup flows, or your request may explicitly name a provider.
  2. If you haven’t chosen a provider, Assistant ranks the available options, using the following main factors:

    (a) Information about your preferences

    • Depending on your Google Account settings, this data can include which providers you use most often or most recently, which apps are installed or open on your phone or other device, which providers you have linked to your Google Account, and other information about your activity on Google services.
    • To learn more about how your data makes Assistant and other Google services work better for you, and the choices you have to manage your privacy, see Your data in the Assistant.

    (b) Information about the provider

    • The quality of user experience from a provider, based on things like overall popularity, average user rating, how often the provider successfully responds to user queries, and if you have a subscription with that provider.
    • How well the provider responds to the details of your request, such as in-stock products, special menu items, or specific flight times.
    • Eligible responses may be limited due to legal regulations that govern sensitive information or audiences. For example, all providers that participate in the Actions for Families program must ensure that their Actions comply with applicable laws like COPPA.
    • In limited circumstances, some providers may be ranked higher due to their partnership with Google in order to give high-quality results to users.

  3. If no provider clearly ranks highest, Assistant may ask you to choose a provider so that it can respond to your request.

Personalizing your results

The Google Assistant uses different types of information to make your experience more useful and relevant. Depending on your settings, the Assistant will reference data in your Google Account to get you what you need when you ask for help. For example, if you ask, “When is my next meeting?”, the Assistant answers your question using information from your Calendar. Or if you ask “Do I need an umbrella tomorrow?” the Assistant uses your current location to give you the most relevant answer. When you ask Google Assistant for something that requires personal information on a shared device, such as a smart display or smart speaker, the Assistant attempts to recognize you using technologies such as Voice Match or Face Match to protect your privacy. If you have not enabled those features or turned on Personal Results on the device you are using, the Assistant will not give you personalized results on that device. Even if Assistant recognizes you, some information, such as your work calendar appointments, may not be available based on the privacy configuration set by your company's system administrator.

You can also use the My Activity web site to view, manage, and delete your activity with Google services, and to manage the activity controls in your Google Account that let you decide what data is saved and used across Google services. For some types of activities and content, such as news and recipes, you can set specific preferences in the settings page for Google Assistant.

Google Assistant always uses other criteria, such as overall popularity and average user ratings for content, and not just your own activity to determine the best responses to your requests. When you access other services through Assistant, such as music or video streaming, those services may apply their own ranking systems and personalization criteria to respond to your requests.

Depending on what you ask Google Assistant, it may also ask you to use the context of your device or your environment to better help you. For example, if you ask Assistant to navigate to the nearest grocery store, it may use the geographic position of the device you are using to find a nearby store and then provide you with directions. Similarly, if you ask Assistant, "Are the kitchen lights on?", it may use information from devices you linked to Google Home to check and let you know.

Providing the best response to fulfill your request

After the ranking process and any personalization is completed, Assistant then responds with what it thinks is the best option, a list of options, or lets you know if it doesn’t understand your request.

If there are several highly ranked responses, Assistant may ask you for more information to clarify your intent, show you follow-up suggestions (on devices with screens), or let you know about related things you can ask.

In some cases, the best way Assistant can help with your request is to provide results from Google Search. For example, Assistant may show you Search results on phones or other devices with a screen if it thinks you want to see a wider set of results, or if no other response ranks higher.

You can learn more about how Google’s Search ranking algorithms work and the different types of useful responses available from Google Search at How Search Works.

Generally, when Assistant provides results from Google Search, those results are similar to what you would find if you searched for them in Google Search. Assistant applies limited algorithmic adjustments with the aim of providing results that are appropriate and helpful for Assistant users:

  • Assistant may filter out inappropriate and explicit content on shared devices, such as smart displays.
  • Assistant may consider the context of your request, such as your previous queries, as well as the capabilities of your device, and common use patterns on that type of device. For example, more video results may be shown on TVs than phones.

How Google Assistant delivers news and podcasts

Trustworthy and timely information empowers people to better understand the world around them and make educated decisions. Google aims to make it easier to stay informed by using technology to organize what journalists are reporting about current issues and events. We don’t have an editorial point of view. Instead, Google Assistant is designed to connect you with a broad array of information and perspectives to help you develop your own point of view and make informed decisions.

When you ask Google Assistant for news or podcasts about a specific topic, such as "Hey Google, show me news about sports" or “Hey Google, play a comedy podcast,” Assistant ranks responses based on the words in your request, the freshness of the content, and if it is from nearby. Assistant may also rank some responses higher based on the device you are using. For example, if you ask for news on a smart display, video news stories may be ranked higher to take advantage of that device’s capabilities. If you ask for news or podcasts from a specific provider, such as an audio streaming service that offers news podcasts, Assistant lets the service provider decide what news or podcast to play.

If you ask Google Assistant for news or podcasts in general, such as asking, "Hey Google, what's the news?" or “Hey Google, play a podcast,” how Assistant responds depends on your settings. With news, Assistant responds with a set of top items from a set of news providers selected in your Assistant news settings under News briefings by default. Depending on where you live, you may also have a Your News Update option within your Assistant news settings. This option ranks news stories based on your location, interests, activity on Google services, and news sources you select in Assistant settings. In some countries, default news providers may be set based on Google's partnerships in order to bring you relevant, authoritative news in that country. You can always change the default news providers in Assistant settings. When you ask for podcasts, if more than one provider is available, Assistant asks you to select your preferred podcast service, such as Google Podcasts, so you can access your favorite podcasts on the provider you prefer. Assistant remembers this choice for future requests, and you can change this selection in your Assistant settings for podcasts.

Google works with news and podcast providers around the world to bring you audio, video and web news content through Google Assistant. News and podcast providers can reach a wider audience at no cost to them by sharing their content with Assistant through the following channels:

All news providers must comply with our news content policies. In general, Google does not pay news providers for their content. However, in some cases Google licenses content from providers in order to bring you relevant, authoritative news content. We don't rank licensed news items higher than other similar news content. For more information about how Google brings news content to you through Google Assistant and other Google services, see How News Works.

Keeping your information private and secure

When you use Google Assistant, you trust us with your data, and it’s our responsibility to protect and respect it. For more information about how Google Assistant is built to keep your information private and secure, see the Assistant Privacy and Security page in the Google Safety Center. You can control many privacy options in Assistant settings, and by saying “Hey Google, turn on Guest Mode,” you can turn on Guest Mode for your shared devices whenever you don’t want Assistant interactions to be saved to your Google Account or used to personalize your experience. Guest Mode is available on Google speakers and Smart Displays in English, with more languages to follow.