Google For India 2021: Many new India-specific features announced

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Last year the Google For India event was a blockbuster one. It was always unrealistic to expect a repeat of that at this year's event. But the 7th Google for India event that was held virtually today was no less interesting as the tech major came up with a clutch of new product features and partnerships that were India-specific with an accent on the use of local languages and dialects. 

Among others, it announced vaccination booking through Google Assistant, local language and voice support in Search and its digital payments platform Google Pay.

This year's announcements are aimed at bridging more gaps and further broadening the inclusive base of India’s digital economy so that the advantages of transformation are accessible to everyone, Google said.

Vaccination booking on COWIN, guided by Google Assistant

Google said it was piloting the first-ever Google Assistant-enabled, end-to-end vaccine booking flow in India with step-wise voice assistance in 8 Indian regional languages apart from English. It will begin rolling out in early 2022. The regional languages are: Hindi, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu. 

“We have worked closely with COWIN to enable this integration, where people everywhere will be able to easily book a vaccine appointment in a more guided manner. It will empower them with access to information and healthcare that would otherwise have been out of reach – a telling example of how technology can bridge gaps in access, and make a tangible difference in people’s lives,” Google said in its announcement.

“We look forward to scaling this technology to other services on the web, to help make it simpler for people to get this done on the internet,” it added.

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You can 'listen' to the Search

Google has tweaked its Search in Indian languages

By simply tapping a button in the Search results, people can now hear the information read back to them in Hinglish and five Indian languages. (Image credit: Google India)

Google also announced a feature in 'Search' that will give users the option to access web pages originally written in other languages, and see it in their preferred language.

This feature will now make high-quality web content available to local language users when they search, and they will still be able to view the page in its original source language if they prefer. It is now available in five Indian languages including Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam, with more to come. It can be accessed on any mobile browser that supports Google Search.

Also announced in India was a global-first feature that will enable people to hear Search results out loud, thus making it easier for users who prefer consuming information by listening. Further, enhancing voice-driven experiences in local languages, this feature will be available in Hinglish and five Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu and Tamil, and will be extended to other Google Search experiences in the future.

Language tweaks on Google Pay

Google Pay is now tweaked to accommodate Indian languages

Hinglish language option on Google Pay. (Image credit: Google India)

To simplify digital payments, Google Pay announced an industry first and a first for Google globally, the additional option of selecting Hinglish — a conversational hybrid of Hindi and English — as a preferred language on the app. With this addition, users will be able to easily navigate the app in the language of their preference, with Hinglish as an option to mirror how a large section of Indians interact naturally.

It also talked of the upcoming launch of speech to text, which allows users to use voice input to pay directly to another user’s bank account – they can voice account numbers in Hindi or English into the app to enter the account number, which is then confirmed with the sender before initiating the payment. 

Another key feature announced today was to mirror how people interact with money is Bill Split, which helps users split and settle shared expenses.

Google, which is in collaboration with local authorities, also announced a range of features that can provide timely info on air quality, weather and flood warning.

Google announced that its 'Look to Speak' app, which helps people communicate by using their eyes using pre-stored words and phrases, is now available in five Indian languages including Hindi, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, and Bengali.

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