Google I/O Introduces List of New Consumer-Aimed Services

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2016-05-18 Print this article Print

Google Home

Set another place at the dinner table for Google Home. You never need a phone to use this. Looking like a decorative vase sitting somewhere central in a residence, the device can hear commands from yards away and give answers to questions through Google Search quickly, nearly on the order of IBM Watson, according to Google. Home uses Assistant to perform all sorts of tasks or look up all kinds of information for anybody who asks.

Home interacts with home entertainment systems through Chromecast ("Hi Google, play Coldplay on Spotify") and heating/lighting/security systems such as Nest to add voice control to all of them. Users can pipe music and entertainment throughout the house or in individual rooms using Google Cast and manage everyday tasks such as adding or deleting appointments on Google Calendar or booking a flight.

Google said that Home is unique in the accuracy of its far-field voice recognition, using a decade of innovation in natural language processing. Home is slated to become available later this year.

"Google Home could be a major force and could also dramatically decrease the sales potential of Amazon Echo," industry analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights told eWEEK. "The biggest sales determinant could be the quality of the AI experience, and in the end, Google will likely win over Amazon.

"Google Home also enables connections to TVs and other non-intelligent speakers with a dongle, and Echo cannot. Amazon could decrease price as a response, too."

Allo Messaging

Google bills this as a smarter messaging app that builds on the company's strengths in machine intelligence and search to help users be more expressive and get more things done. All messages are encrypted, and messages in its special Incognito mode will be encrypted end to end.

Assistant is built directly into Allo, which is based on your phone number, so users can easily find information or get do things in real time, wherever they are. Allo enables users to bring Assistant into a 1:1 or group conversation, or it can appear in the context of an existing conversation to offer necessary help at relevant moments. A split screen enables this on Android phones.

Google Assistant in Allo also "understands" you, so you can ask for things like your agenda for the day, details of your flight and hotel or photos from your last trip. Because it understands natural language patterns, users can chat naturally, and it will understand. For example, "Is my flight delayed?" will return information about your flight status.

Allo features Smart Reply, so users can respond to messages without typing a word. Smart Reply learns over time and will show suggestions that are in your style. For example, it will learn whether you're more of a "haha"-versus-"lol" type of person. The more you use Allo the more "you" the suggestions will become.

Smart Reply also works with photos, providing intelligent suggestions related to the content of the photo. If your friend sends you a photo of tacos, for example, you may see Smart Reply suggestions like "yummy" or "I love tacos."

Dozens of new emojis populate this app. A cool new feature: When a user wants to express emotions, he or she can use a slider to blow up the message font to "shout," or ratchet it down to emphasize a "quieter" response.

When messaging a photo, users can write notes across the photo with their finger or a stylus to personalize the photo message.

Allo utilizes knowledge from across Google—search, maps, photos, video, YouTube and Translate—in addition to services from Google partners.

"Google Allo is their latest attempt to create a successful messaging platform. It also appears that it's their primary 'bot' platform, too," Moorhead of Moor Insights told eWEEK.

"Their biggest play is AI, so that 'smart' replies are smarter and more natural all the way from text to photos to setting up dinner reservations. The demo reminded me a lot of Microsoft's bot platform. Allo is Google's recent messaging attempt, the latest being Hangouts, that has had minimal success. Google is billions of users behind WeChat, WhatsApp and Messenger, and has a lot of work to get consumers to use it."

Allo is slated to become available on Android and iOS in summer 2016.

Duo Video Calling App

Duo is a simple, fast one-to-one video calling app for everyone—whether Android or iOS, a fast or slow connection, wherever users are. Like Allo, Duo is based on phone numbers, allowing users to reach anyone in their phone books. Its interface fades away when users are on a call.

A unique feature on Duo is Knock Knock, which allows a user to see a live video preview of the caller before he/she picks up. Thus, the person being called can see the caller and decide whether to answer the call or not. Once the call is answered, Duo transitions the user right into the call.

Duo calls are in HD video (up to 720p) and audio. Google said it has optimized Duo to work well, even on spotty networks.

Duo is expected to become available on Android and iOS in fall 2016.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features and Analysis at eWEEK. Twitter: @editingwhiz

At its 10th annual developer conference, the huge search and Web services provider offers up some intriguing new apps and services for its billions of users.

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