Google just loves its staggered releases, delivering features piecemeal and in waves. That’s something traditional gamers might not be used to but it at least shows signs of activity for a gaming platform that started off on the wrong foot. The latest feature to drop is not exactly for Stadia itself but for its special Stadia Controller, finally enabling the Google Assistant button to summon Google Assistant, presuming you’re not actually doing anything yet.
There are a few reasons that make the Stadia Controller unique, which is also why Google is pushing it for the best Stadia experience. The first is that it connects directly to Wi-Fi and to Stadia servers, bypassing the Chromecast Ultra completely. Another is a dedicated Google Assistant button that, until today, was practically unusable.
Now that button will do something when you press it, after you’ve set it up on the Stadia app, of course. It will start Google Assistant, or at least a very basic and crude version of the intelligent and helpful AI assistant we’ve come to know and love (or, for others, hate). It has some rather limiting restrictions, the most important of which is that it only works with Google’s preferred Chromecast Ultra and Stadia Controller combo.
Pressing the button also only works if you’re on the Stadia home screen, which means while you’re not playing a game. For now, all you can do is launch a game and ask it about things, gaming-related or otherwise. You can’t use it yet to control your smart home appliances. It will, in the future, gain those abilities, but hopefully not in a way that will block most of your screen.
The ability to use Google Assistant while gaming could be convenient but it may not turn out to be that useful in the long run. Microsoft tried this combination of Xbox One and Cortana in the past, without even having to press a button, but has recently decided to pull that feature out. Given how Google wants its Assistant to be everywhere, though, that’s not probably going to happen, at least for a while.