Google will let people in emerging markets like India talk to Google Assistant, the company's virtual assistant, simply by dialing a phone number. Google announced the feature at an event in New Delhi on Thursday.
People across India on Vodafone Idea, a carrier that Google has partnered with for the service, will be able to dial a toll-free number and ask Google Assistant — in English and Hindi — about the weather, sports scores, traffic conditions, and more. Google did not comment on whether the feature will roll out in other countries besides India.
Allowing people access Google Assistant simply by making a phone call would make the feature available to hundreds of millions of people in large countries like India, where more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion people still don’t have access to smartphones, and hundreds of millions of people still use inexpensive feature phones with limited access to the internet or apps.
Nearly half India’s 1.3 billion people are now connected to the internet, while over 500 million people are just coming online, thanks to crashing data prices, making it an attractive market for most Silicon Valley technology companies that are looking for growth.