The pandemic has made ordering restaurant takeout a little less of a guilty pleasure, both because it’s safer and it helps support local businesses. Google is now trying to make the process faster, too, by having Google Assistant fill in contact information and payment details automatically on Android phones after you find a restaurant via Google Search.
To use the new feature, you have to search for whatever restaurant you’d like to order from in the Google app, then select the “Order Online” button on the restaurant’s information card. After making your food selections, you can tag in Google Assistant to complete the order using your stored contact and payment information from Google Pay and Chrome Autofill. Assistant then confirms you’re ready to pay, and the order is placed.
There are also some big limitations to be aware of: Google tells The Verge that Assistant will only be able to help with pickup orders for now, with deliveries coming at some point in the future. It also only works with restaurants Google has partnered with for online ordering, and it can only be initiated from the Google app on an Android phone. Google plans to add more restaurants in the US later this year.
Google claims Duplex is what powers this new takeout trick, which might seem unusual given the tech’s origins. Duplex was initially introduced as a way to automate making reservations and appointments over the phone, only to have the name later applied to automated form-filling for online car rentals and movie ticket purchases. As what Google says Duplex does has expanded, voice has become less central, but the basic theme is still that it’ll handle some busywork automatically for you.
All of these newer Duplex features have less immediate wow-factor than the original phone reservation demo, but could be more convenient: parsing and filling out online forms is an all too common online activity, especially when dealing with a restaurant you might only order from once. Having Assistant do the busywork makes sense — and is less creepy and confusing than a robotic phone call.
Google also has a couple of other new Assistant features coming in the near term: Smart home automated routines that can be set to trigger at sunrise or sunset, and there’s a more useful “find my phone” feature for Apple devices, too.
You’ve been able to ask a Google Home device to find find iPhones and iPads for a while now, but the feature didn’t work if the missing device was set to silent or didn’t have an internet connection. Now if you opt into receiving “notifications and critical alerts” from the Google Home app, Assistant can ring a missing Apple device even if it has Do Not Disturb turned on.