Google just made it stupid cheap for companies to build Assistant into their products

As part of its larger Google Assistant-themed set of announcements from CES 2019, Google has teased a new program called Google Assistant Connect with a goal of making it considerably easier and, more important, cheaper, for companies to add Assistant to its products.

While the company said during a press preview event that it would talk more about the Assistant Connect program at Google I/O in May, it walked us through what kinds of products would benefit from the turnkey program. It showed off a prototype of an e-ink screen that displayed static, or lightly animated, pieces of information. This particular one was magnetically attached to a fridge and showed the weather, but the use cases are plentiful. The only caveat is that the information must be generated by a Google Assistant-powered speaker in the vicinity, so something like a Google Home or Lenovo Smart Display.

The company also showed off a single button intended to generate repetitive Assistant Routines, like a "goodnight" or "good morning" combination of events normally activated using voice. Google also foresees many different form factors used by companies that engage in the Assistant Connect program, at prices considerably lower than even the Home Mini, which is often discounted to $20 or so.

An endeavor like this is a long time coming for Google given that Amazon has done something very similar with its Works With Alexa platform, allowing hardware makers to tack on smart assistant support to everything from clocks to a Big Mouth Billy Bass.

Google says it will have a much more robust plan for Assistant Connect at I/O in the next few months, but companies that are interested in signing up can do so starting today.

Daniel Bader

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central.