One of the promises of the new Assistant, as it was demo’ed by Google at I/O, is its direct integration with several apps on your phone. Instead of being an Assistant for Google’s services first and foremost, the digital helper would put its smarts at every developer’s disposal, letting them hook it up to several actions inside their apps. We’ve already gotten a small preview of this integration when we saw a few actions Assistant could perform inside Photos, Messages, WhatsApp, YouTube, Gmail, Maps, and Chrome. But we know there’s more potential there, and Chrome is one of the first to implement broader support for Assistant, with direct browser actions accessible through voice commands.
Pixel 4 owners with the new Assistant enabled on their phones (you have to be using one of a few English variants, enable full gesture navigation, and not have any G Suite accounts) can open Chrome and head over to chrome://flags/#direct-actions. If the flag is set to default, it means a server-side switch decides whether it’s on or off for you, so to be on the safe side, force it to “Enabled,” and restart your browser.
Now trigger Google Assistant and try one of these nine different commands:
- Open a new tab
- Close this tab
- Close all tabs
- Go back
- Go forward
- Bookmark this page
- Open history
- Open downloads
According to the Chromium gerrit entry for this feature, two other commands should work — Help and Preferences — but I can’t get them to trigger anything inside Chrome. The former just surfaces Google searches for the term “help,” while the latter opens Android’s settings and not Chrome’s. Still the other nine commands are enough to give us our first look at what the new Assistant could be capable of if developers fully embraced it and added it to their apps.
Whether you have dirty hands, are occupied with something else, have motor impairment, or are simply feeling lazy, a feature like this can extend your control over your phone and apps. Maybe one day we’d be able to completely command our devices and apps with our voice, and not just trigger some specific actions like these, but in the meantime, we can enjoy this little taste of the future.