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Google Assistant gets sloth facts and guided whiskey tastings

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Google Assistant has a smattering of recently released voice apps that do things like help Airbnb guests, play a rap lyrics karaoke challenge, or give guided whiskey tastings by Johnnie Walker.

The Actions on Google platform, which launched last December, now counts more than 450 voice apps, or actions, in its directory.

The recently added Facts About Sloths shares fun and scientific facts about sloths in visual cards (along with a fair amount of adorable sloth photos).

From Flyaway Sprout, the FreshHost action is for hotels, vacation rental owners, or Airbnb hosts. It gives quick answers to the kinds of questions that commonly occur to guests, answers to which are sometimes posted on the wall or filed in a binder someplace.

By creating a FreshHost account, you can make your own customized action that answers custom questions for guests. FreshHost is the second vacation rental action for Google Assistant, following the release of Vacation Rental Concierge in early 2017.

Like Vacation Rental Concierge, FreshHost recommends placing a small sign next to the smart speaker that reads “OK Google, talk to FreshHost” to help guests get started.

For bot developers, the Gupshup Proxy Bot action lets you test bots by invoking them using the name you gave the bot. The Voice Prototypes action from Sayspring also lets developers test Alexa and Google Assistant voice apps.

Then there’s the Johnnie Walker action, which gives a whiskey 101 course and offers guided whiskey tastings, though of course you’ll have to go get a bottle of Johnnie Walker for that. Depending on the kind of whiskey, some tastings last about five minutes since the action pauses for activities like sipping whiskey or pouring a mixed drink.

The Johnnie Walker action follows a series of bots made to promote alcoholic beverages, like Pátron tequila’s cocktail maker and Absolut giving away free drinks on FB Messenger in select cities. Beer and wine guide actions have also launched in the past.

Above: A Johnnie Walker guided whiskey tasting

Rap Challenge is a game that tests your knowledge of the lyrics of classic hip hop songs from artists like Notorious B.I.G., Eminem, Will Smith, and the Beastie Boys. Being a person who has zero natural freestyling abilities, I wanted this action to teach me how to be a better rapper, but Rap Challenge is karaoke trivia, not instructional. It’s still pretty fun, and could be more fun when a wider variety of artists are added.

Above: Rap Challenge

The Thrillist’s action offers suggestions and instruction on how to grill different types of seafood, chicken, beef, and types of vegetables. The action parallels a summer-long exploration of grilling by the publication, appropriately called Grillist.

Finally, the Virtual Nurse action can walk you through things like performing CPR on a child or teach you about illnesses or things you should know about certain medications. It comes with the same disclaimers as other health voice apps that it’s intended for informational or educational purposes only, and in the event of an emergency, call 911. Unlike other voice apps I’ve come across and tested, Virtual Nurse sticks with you and counts chest compressions when you ask how to give a child CPR. Like the Johnnie Walker guided whiskey tastings, Virtual Nurse comes to Google Assistant after first becoming available via Amazon’s Alexa.

For its first voice app, released in the last days of June, Esquire’s Google Assistant action draws upon tidbits of knowledge shared over the course of decades in the magazine. Men who speak to the action are given nuggets of wisdom like know your barber on a first-name basis, don’t wear dress shoes more than two days in a row (guys’ feet are too sweaty for that business), never refuse a woman’s request to dance, and do not order a Sloppy Joe on a first date.

With this action you hear the human voice, and it’s fun to hear what the narrator will tell you. It’s arguable whether “You can’t go wrong with a story about dolphins” passes as wisdom, but that sounds roughly accurate.

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