Google Assistant can now catch the Singaporean English accent, and speak some Singlish
Assistant is still picking up a couple of words saying ‘Actually Singlish is quite cheem. I am still learning. Tahan a bit can? World-class Singlish coming soon!’
By Wong Pei Ting
Siri, step aside. Google Assistant, which will feature in Google’s newest phone to be launched here in two weeks, will be able to understand commands given in Singaporean English accent.
You may ask it to teach you how to cook Nasi Lemak, remind you to book movie tickets at Shaw Lido, find the nearest automated teller machine, or even when Hari Raya Puasa is next year.
But Google Assistant does not yet understand the full Singlish lexicon.
The Singaporean English addition expands Google Assistant’s coverage to at least 12 accents around the world. It currently understands the British, American, Australian, and Canadian English accents. It also gets commands in Bahasa Indonesia, Hindi, Korean, Japanese, German, Brazilian, Portuguese, and French.
In a demonstration at the Google Asia Pacific office in Singapore, the Assistant was told: “Talk to me in Singlish.”
It replied: “Okay lor, you want me to talk liddat ah? Can one no problem. Oh no, my English is broken. Looks like we need to stop for now. But I have to say, speaking Singlish feels pretty shiok!”
The answers by Google Assistant would vary every time it was asked. When TODAY repeated the question, it said: “Actually Singlish is quite cheem. I am still learning. Tahan a bit can? World-class Singlish coming soon!”
Google Assistant’s product manager Deniz Binay told reporters the Singaporean English integration “is missing some Singlish words, but it will get better over time (in future updates).”
Ms Stephanie Davis, the country director of Google Singapore noted in a press statement that Singaporeans are avid smartphone users who are always on the go.
“With this latest update to Google Assistant, we hope to help more Singaporeans get things done quickly on their phones – take a selfie, get directions from Google Maps, find your photos, get help with translation and more,” she said.
The assistant will be available on the Pixel 2 XL – the six-inch version of Google’s second-generation smartphone range – which goes on sale on November 15. The handset will be launched in Singapore exclusively with Singtel for S$1,098 (US$808 for a 64Gb model) with Singtel’s cheapest plan at S$27.90 (US$20.53) monthly.
Over the next couple of weeks, it will come to Android phones 6.0+, or those with at least the Marshmallow operating system, Google said on Thursday, adding that it will be available on iPhones “soon” when the Google Assistant app gets updated with Singaporean English.
To start using Google Assistant, just say “Ok Google” or touch and hold the Home button. It can then, based on the user’s commands, send text messages, set reminders, or even give directions.
The technology taps on “advances in areas like natural language processing, computer vision and deep learning”, Google said.
“That’s how the Google Assistant is able to understand the intent behind words to handle follow-up questions and complex, multi-step tasks.”
“With your permission, it can learn your preferences, your likes and your dislikes – all done in a private, secure way that puts you in control,” the tech giant added in a press statement.