Why it matters: It’s estimated that almost 60 percent of the world’s population are internet users, though that still means hundreds of millions of people, especially in certain locations such as India, aren’t online. But a lack of internet access doesn't mean citizens in the country can’t use Google Assistant.
In an event at New Delhi today, Google announced a telephone line that people in India can dial to get answers from Google Assistant. Anyone in the country on Vodafone-Idea telecom networks can call the number (000-800-9191-000), which is operational 24/7 and free of charge.
TechCrunch reports that Manuel Bronstein, VP at Google, says the initiative is designed to reach the large number of people in India without access to smartphones or the internet. While over 460 million people in India use the internet, more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion citizens are unconnected.
Google gave some examples of the questions people can ask its virtual assistant, such as sports scores, traffic conditions, weather forecasts, and help with homework. It added that the service will be available across India in English and Hindi.
In addition to the phone line, the company also unveiled a Google Assistant feature called interpreter mode, which acts as a real-time translator. Google said it would support translation between English and Hindi when it rolls out in the coming months.
Another Google Assistant change allows users to choose one of the nine Indian languages it supports without having to change the device’s chosen language.
“Starting today, you can talk to your Assistant in the nine Indian languages for example, for talking in Hindi -you can simply say ‘Hey Google, talk to me in Hindi’ to start using the Assistant in the language, without needing to dig around in settings.”