Google Assistant “Ambient” mode coming to phones, tablets

Even though the Google Home and Nest Hub provide smart features to tables and kitchens, you might soon be able to get similar features on a spare phone or tablet.

We consume technology at a hurried rate, and it’s not unusual to find one or two phones doing nothing in a drawer. There are only so many people you can pass old devices to, and while you can always recycle them, it wouldn’t surprise us if you had a spare phone or tablet gathering dust somewhere.

Good news, though: you might be able to do something with them in the near future, and turn them into what would effectively be a smart display.

It’s a concept Google is working on, delivering the Google Assistant as a smart display in what’s called “Ambient Mode”, a feature coming to tablets and phones, be it those you use actively, or something you might have lying in a drawer unused.

Similar to the Google Home Hub, now the Nest Hub, Google Assistant Ambient Mode provides a view similar to the Google smart displays that shows a digital photo frame linked to your photos, with a screen that you can quickly see notifications and music, as well as control of devices in the smart home. In essence, it’s a more useful take on a lock screen than merely the phone telling you the time and that, yes, it’s charging.

Ambient Mode also works with me messaging services, so you can have it read messages to you, or even send others. Your Google device will need those messaging apps installed, but if you regularly rely on something like WhatsApp, you’ll be able to talk to Google on your phone or tablet while it’s charging, and get it to act on your command.

There aren’t many devices that Google Assistant’s Ambient Mode works on just yet, with Google advising that it’s first on two upcoming tablets by Lenovo, the Smart Tab M8 HD and the Yoga Smart Tab, as well as the Nokia 6.2 and 7.2.

However with this feature available on four devices to start with, we imagine it won’t be too long until Google rolls it out for more later down the track.

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