Google recently introduced a new product that aims to take on Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri. It's likely that the company will use its 4 October event to further highlight how we can expect to use it on a daily basis on our Android phones and other Google-powered devices.
Called Google Assistant, it's basically an extension of Google Now. Google unveiled Google Assistant at its annual Google I/O developer conference in May 2016, pitching the new virtual assistant as an improvement of the two-way conversation experience in Google Now. If you'd like to know more, including how Google Assistant works and when you'll be able to use it, we've explained all you need to know.
Google Assistant: What is it?
Google Assistant is Google's latest iteration of a virtual assistant. It's considered an upgrade or an extension of Google Now. During the main keynote at Google I/O 2016, Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, demoed Google Assistant and said he wanted people to experience "an ongoing two-way dialog” with the virtual assistant. Keep in mind this virtual assistant trend kicked off in 2011, when Apple introduced Siri.
Siri is a little helper that can do things like set your alarm, answer questions about weather and sports scores, and make you giggle with a joke or two. Two years after it debuted on iPhone, Google introduced Google Now for Android. It's not audible or personal like Siri, but it can serve up cards with information pulled from Google.com. Google Now can also scan your emails for package tracking, calendar events, and more.
Google Now is also heavily integrated into Android, sort of like Siri with iOS. Skip forward another year to 2014, and Amazon jumped on board with its own assistant called Alexa. It can be found in the company's connected Bluetooth speaker. In our review of the device, which is called Amazon Echo, we praised Alexa's ability to audibly answer questions, hail an Uber, order Dominos pizza, and control connected devices.
Unlike Siri and Google Now, Alexa isn't limited to Android or iOS. Anyway, because of Alexa, Amazon Echo has become so popular that Amazon can't keep it in stock and has since launched two other versions. Google obviously noticed this, because at Google I/O 2016, it unveiled a similar connected speaker called Google Home. Arguably, the standout feature of Google Home is that it has Google Assistant.
Here's how Google explained its new assistant:
"The assistant is conversational - an ongoing two-way dialogue between you and Google that understands your world and helps you get things done. It makes it easy to buy movie tickets while on the go, to find that perfect restaurant for your family to grab a quick bite before the movie starts, and then help you navigate to the theater."
You can learn more about Google Assistant from here.
Google Assistant: How does it work?
The thing to remember about Google Assistant is that it is conversational. That means you can ask a question and then ask several follow-up questions, and Google Assistant will be able to keep track of the conversation, determine context, and audibly respond with the right information. Not much is known about Google Assistant, but we do know it is coming to two new Google products: Google Home and Allo.
Google Home is a Wi-Fi speaker that also works as a smarthome control center and an assistant for the whole family. You can use it to playback entertainment throughout your entire house, effortlessly manage every-day tasks, and ask Google what you want to know. Google Home is able to do much of these things thanks to Google Assistant.
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, Google Assistant can determine context with your questions. For instance, when you ask "What's playing tonight?", Google Assistant can show films at your local cinema. If you then follow up with "We're planning on bringing the kids", Google Assistant will know to serve up showtimes for kid-friendly films. You can even say "Let's see Jungle Book" to purchase tickets.
You could also ask "Is Jungle Book any good", and then the assistant will display reviews, ratings, and a trailer. Notice Google Assistant is able to string your questions together in order to determine context and serve up the right information. It can also do basic stuff like retrieve your travel itinerary, daily schedule, commute time to work, package delivery information, and more.
You can read all about Google Home from here.
Allo is Google's new smart chat app. The messenger has started its roll out on Android and iOS and is designed to give you plenty of options when it comes to chatting to your friends.
Google introduced the new app at Google I/O 2016. Rather than just giving you a straight-down-the-line messaging app, Allo makes chat more fun and interactive. It's based on your phone number - like WhatsApp - and seems to be going after all the popular chat apps, with emoji, stickers, and more.
- Google Allo: How to install, set up and use the latest smart messenger
- What is Google Allo, how does it work, and why would you use it?
One of its hottest features is Google Assistant. Google basically took the virtual assistant and bots like what you'd find in Facebook Messenger and rolled them all into one product.
In Allo, you can to ask it questions by either typing "@google" and then asking your question or by using your voice to dictate. Google Assistant then responds. Again, this is all conversational, so you can ask follow-up questions and the clever bot remains contextually aware.
You can ask practically anything you'd type in to Google Search or Maps, including asking it to find you a place to eat nearby or how many Euros are in a number of Pounds. You can interact with it by asking it to tell you something interesting, show you something funny, or show a video about something specific, and it all shows up within the chat you're in. You don't need to leave the app.
One of the cool features is the in-chat game. Type "@google let's play a game" and you'll get the option to play emoji based trivia games.
Like it can in Google Home, Google Assistant can also do tasks, such as get you movie times and purchase tickets for you. You will also have access to Google's 17 years of search experience. That allows you to ask specific questions such as "How much fat is in an avocado?" or "What is Draymond Green's jersey number?" Those types of questions will stump Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri, but not Google Assistant.
The app also features an incognito mode so that you can make your conversations more private, and even set them to self-destruct within a specified amount of time.
Google Home can be a control center for your entire home because it has access to the Google Assistant. It will let you do things like set alarms and timers and manage to-do lists and shopping lists. It will also connect your smarthome and support popular network systems. That means you will be able to control smart lights, switches, doors, etc (including Google's own Nest products).
Google said it plans to work with developers so you can control things beyond the home too, such as booking a car, ordering a dinner, or sending flowers to a loved one. And the best part is you will be able to do this with just your voice. Keep in mind a report surfaced earlier this week claiming Apple also wants to open Siri to third-party developers and create a own Siri-powered speaker.
Alexa, on the other hand, is already available through Echo and offers a slew of integrations with Spotify, Uber, Dominos, Philips, Belkin, IFTTT, and more. In order to get a leg up on Alexa, we think Google will have to launch Google Assistant with as many integrations as possible.
Google Assistant: When can you use it?
You can use it right now in the Google Allo app, but as we already mentioned it will be available elsewhere throughout Google's ecosystem, probably sometime after the 4 October launch event which will also be used to launch the new Pixel phones, 4K Chromecast and Google Home router.
We don't know yet if Google Assistant replacing Google Now, or running alongside it. It seems sensible to have just the one new product do everything that Now does, and more.