Amid Google’s preparations to make a top-secret announcement at its recent Google I/O developer conference, there was wide speculation of what the next step would be in Google’s development and innovation. As a leader in search technology, all eyes were on Google to see where the future is headed. The answer is Google assistant, what the company is calling the “next evolution” of Google Search.
What can Google Assistant do?
There are a lot of buzzwords involved in a presentation like this, so what exactly is Google assistant, and what can it do? Let’s boil it down:
Google assistant is:
- Speech-activated Google search: In essence, Google assistant competes with Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. The technology allows users to verbally execute their Google searches and receive answers as well as benefit from reminders, help, and assistance.
- An evolving technology: Unlike many other Google products, Google assistant is lowercased, which indicates that it is an evolving technology instead of a specific product. During the I/O conference, Google executives showcased Google assistant in a few different forms. The first is through Google’s Allo chat app, which gives users a way to talk with Google assistant. The app can be used to set reminders, answer questions, book travel, and more, and it remembers the questions that have been asked to provide effective follow-up questions and information. It can also be used in the newly announced Google Home device, which is a direct competitor to Amazon Echo. Google Home is a small desktop pod that connects all the Google devices in a home and offer voice-activated controls as well as other Google assistant services, such as reminders, scheduling, alarms, media control, and more. It seems inevitable, given Google’s track record of innovation, that Google assistant will continue to have many new applications in the coming months and years.
- Your personal concierge: One Google executive called the new technology “the assistant of an ambient experience that extends across devices.” From helping with mundane tasks to synching with Google devices like Chromecast, Nest, and Google Home, Google assistant aims to make your life easier and does so by seamlessly integrating all of your devices, questions, schedules, and more into one voice-activated technology. Just like a knowledgeable concierge, Google assistant can learn your habits and tendencies to make recommendations and answer questions that best meet your needs.
Google assistant is not:
- Type-activated: Unlike traditional Google searches, you don’t have to type your questions or requests to Google assistant. The idea behind it is that people aren’t near keyboards and touchscreen devices all the time, so voice-activated artificial intelligence technology gives people the help and answers they need while still keeping up with their busy lives.
- A “bot”: Chat bots are all the rage these days, as they offer conversational, voice-controlled technology and assistance. In many ways, Google assistant is Google’s version of a chat bot, but the company never referred to it as such during the opening presentation. While most commentators are quick to label Google assistant as a chat bot, it is an interesting strategic decision by Google to leave that label behind. Perhaps Google wants to separate itself from less successful chat bots, or it sees Google assistant growing beyond its current conversational technologies. Only time will tell.
- One way: When using the mobile app or desktop version of Google, the queries are often one-sided—How many tablespoons are in a cup? What’s the weather like today? Who’s the author of To Kill a Mockingbird? But Google assistant provides a two-way conversation that gives the information of a one-way Google search in conversational form to provide a richer and more informative experience. Instead of simply searching for movie times in your area, you can ask Google assistant what is showing at a local theater, and the assistant could answer and follow up by asking what movie you want to see. With your answer, Google assistant can provide a link for you to instantly buy tickets. Google assistant can sort through all the questions and information you ask to give you the answers you really need—think of it as a two-way conversation with a very helpful friend.
Google Assistant is a Game Changer
The announcement of Google assistant is definitely a game changer of conversational assistant technology. With Google Home now as a direct competitor to Amazon Echo, it will be interesting to see how the innovations continue and what developments will come next. One thing is for sure—the future looks bright (and chatty).