All major Google consumer platforms like Android and ChromeOS allow third-party developers. In the case of Assistant, Google is making a shift to focus on Android and will essentially no longer allow third-party voice experiences — including apps and games with visual interactions — on Smart Displays or speakers.
Google today announced that “Conversational Actions” will be discontinued in June 2023. Powered by “Hey Google, talk to [x service]”, was announced in 2016 as the first way for third-party developers to integrate with Assistant. Before today, Google advertised like this:
Create rich, natural conversations
Create personalized visual and voice experiences for smart devices such as phones, speakers and screens.
Priority: Assistant + Android
Google is ditching conversational actions to focus on “Android app actions” from 2019 as “users want to engage with their favorite apps using voice, and developers want to leverage their existing Android investments.”
The new approach is just to get developers to add voice control capabilities to their existing Android apps, rather than creating a completely standalone experience from the ground up that was device independent. All in all, this made development difficult and came about during the early days of voice assistants when many companies were experimenting with the new method of interaction.
This Android focus isn’t just limited to phones and tablets, as these Assistant experiences also work on watches (Wear OS), televisions (Google/Android TV), and cars (Android Auto/Automotive). Recent improvements include making the Assistant “direct users to apps even when queries don’t mention an app name” and open a Play Store listing if the required app isn’t installed. Another example is displaying app actions (shortcuts) in Pixel Launcher search.
Assistant voice apps not so much
However, what’s left out of this new push are Smart Displays and Assistant Speakers, where you’d likely use conversation actions, otherwise known as “actions on Google”. That said, the use of pure voice apps on these two form factors wasn’t that high.
The disappearance that will be a little more impactful is that of Smart Display games. To adapt to the Nest Hub canvas, Conversation Actions introduced the “Interactive Canvas” so developers could build apps with touch and voice input. That loss, including puzzles and picture books, will be most felt by those who used Smart Displays as familiar devices, but Google told us it’s still very focused on use cases for children.
As part of today’s announcement, Google said it “will continue to invest in all the popular Assistant experiences users love, like timers, media, home automation, communications, and more.” There are no changes to third-party smart home integrations or media experiences (music, video, etc.).
Existing conversational action developers are directed to this page for more details as Google ended up with the following note:
Looking to the future, we envision an intuitive, natural and innovative platform that allows developers to leverage the entire ecosystem of Android devices so they can easily reach more users. We’re always looking to improve the Assistant experience, and we’re confident that App Actions is the best way to do that. We’re grateful for all you’ve done to build the Google Assistant ecosystem over the past 5 years, and we’re here to help navigate the changes as we continue to make it even better. We’re excited for what’s to come and grateful to be building it together.
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