Nothing is static in the world of the tech giants, and over the last few years hardware and software suppliers have been playing catch up with each other. Google’s I/O Keynote, demonstrated a lot of catch up, and a tremendous amount of partnership and innovation.
Google Home has been billed as the competitor for the Echo, Amazon’s voice activated speaker. But Google has taken the concept and transformed it, or rather evolved it – Google Home speakers, as well as being voice activated, can communicate with each other. While this may seem a somewhat incremental improvement, at a practical level it means you can control various rooms in your house through voice activation – while sitting in the living room, you can tell the speaker in your child’s bedroom to play a lullaby. The applications at the moment are somewhat limited, but as more Internet of Things devices and applications come online, voice activation technology that can communicate through walls will enable extraordinary levels of functionality in our day to day lives.
Google’s new virtual assistant, imaginatively named Google Assistant has made the most of one of Google’s key strengths – breadth of offerings. Capable of communicating across all your Google platforms, Google Assistant doesn’t simply recognise questions, it understands context. This means you can ask questions in a conversational manner, such as, “Where’s that appointment with Dave?” Assistant will understand the question, reference it to your calendar and then to maps and provide you with an answer. Again, the strength of this protocol isn’t in its immediate functionality but rather in what it will eventually be capable of doing.
Allo, was an announcement that very few people were looking forward to – yet another messaging app. However, most were pleasantly surprised. Using the same technology as Google Assistant, Allo listens in on your conversations and actually gets involved. Perhaps you’re having a discussion with your spouse about how much you’re both working and how it would be nice to have a date night. Allo will recognise the context of the conversation, and on-screen will give you some suggestions for local restaurants. It will be interesting to see how the technology handles rhetorical questions such as, “I can never find…” and the suchlike.
An innovation that is likely to revolutionise the app development industry is Android Instant Apps which will allow consumers to interact with sub-elements of an application without having to download it. For example, you see an NFC tag and don’t have the correct reader on your phone, just scan anyway and your phone will download a portion of the required app, scan the tag and the rest will simply disappear. With the ability to store everything on the cloud, and this new innovation which will allow us to interact with apps rather than having to own them, there is a clear future beyond physical hardware.
Netflix, YouTube and others are working with Google to get their media ‘Daydream’ ready. Google has wisely recognised that as virtual reality goes mainstream there will be a need for platforms and standards which meet an industry agreed benchmark. ‘Daydream,’ is to be Google’s VR platform and through this, the company hopes the benchmark to which suppliers of content will adhere to. Google will also be releasing VR hardware such as goggles at some stage towards the end of the year, but details on this were non-existent.
Google has again taken the bull by the horns, and faced its opponent’s head on – it will be fascinating to see how they respond.