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.

Providing the best response to fulfill your request

After the ranking process 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.