Google wants to connect everyone to its Assistant ecosystem, even those who do not get the internet in their area.
On Thursday, at a Google for India event, the search giant announced that in partnership with Vodafone Idea Limited, it is bringing its voice assistant to 2G feature phones, and also those stuck in network-less regions.
This is unique in many ways, as Google is allowing people without a Google ID to use one of its voice-centric services, to check for weather, seek answers for basic queries and even check if a shop in their area is open or not.
Having said that, the feature to use Assistant is limited to Vodafone Idea users for now, and Google will most likely open this support for other network users in the coming years. Also, the support is only available for English and Hindi for now, with others to be added at a later date.
With this feature, Google is hopeful that Assistant can be of help to people with or without the internet. And as confirmed by Manuel Bronstein from the Google Assistant team, you can do all this by dialing 000 800 9191000.
The Vodafone-Idea Phone Line – supported by the Google Assistant – enables Vodafone-Idea users to call a single number free of charge at any time, and ask for everything – from sports scores, traffic conditions and weather forecasts or get help with homework.Google India blog post
With India slowly switching off from the 2G network, we asked Manuel, what use-case viability will it offer in the long-run, when the network will cease to exist.
This is where he pointed out that the Phone Line feature is not specifically meant for 2G users, in fact people stuck in remote parts where getting mobile network can be a challenge, can also utilise the feature. For this to work at a grass root level, Google would have to expand its language support.
But as with most global technology giants operating in India, there are data privacy concerns, and a gentlemen at the sidelines of the event was in his right to question Google over it.
Manuel and Co. did confirm that because anybody (with Vodafone Idea number) can use this service, no data logs are created or accessed by the search giant.
However, since mobile numbers can be traced to individuals we’ll probably take that with a pinch of salt for now.