The one product to watch from Google’s hardware event is Google Assistant. It is likely the most exciting new product announcement since the iPhone in 2007
At Google’s hardware event on Tuesday, several products were released, including two phones, a smart home device, a wireless router, a VR Headset and a new Chromecast (Ultra). Each product is worthy of its own article, but they are mere fragments of the bigger picture, which is Google Assistant.
As Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google) stated, there has been a big shift in computing approximately every decade since the PC was launched in the mid ’80s. In the ’90s, we got the Web and in the 2000s, the world got the smartphone. Like Apple in 2007, when it launched the first iPhone, Google hopes to disrupt the market and change the way we use computers and run our lives. This is the AI revolution.
Google Assistant was announced at Google I/O earlier this year and recently introduced in Google’s new chat app: Allo. It is an AI personal assistant that chats with you and can assist you with many tasks. You can chat or talk to the Assistant and it can bring you relevant information, send messages, book events, save reminders, change the lights, play content on your TV and many other actions. Google is working hard to bring more functionality to its Assistant, so you can expect its capabilities to improve over time.
In the coming years, you may find that Google Assistant will become your go-to interface for any task while opening apps or using buttons could soon become passé.
After using Google Assistant in Allo, I dare say that it is not quite ready to pass the Turing test. While its jokes are priceless, it often doesn’t understand your requests and the information it offers isn’t always relevant. However, in the coming months and years, AI will undoubtedly improve immensely. I think the chosen name shows that Google intends for the Assistant to soon replace human personal assistants and to become assistants for those of us who aren’t important enough to have a secretary.
Google Assistant is integrated into almost all Google software and hardware, but more importantly, any developer will be able to integrate Google Assistant into their own product starting in December. So whether you are playing with a Raspberry Pi in your basement or you are a big OEM with a mass marketed consumer device, you will be able to integrate Google Assistant into your product.
Integration with apps
The Assistant can also help you implement tasks through compatible third party applications. Any developer is able to allow Google Assistant to perform tasks through their app. This means that you may find yourself using Google Assistant instead of any functional application. While it may not replace Instagram (yet), you will have no need for an app to order an Uber or find the best outings and events.
Integration with hardware
In addition to integrating with third party applications, Google Assistant is able to control a growing list of hardware appliances from different partners. You can operate some devices, like the Chromecast, Nest devices, Samsung SmartThings and others, and as time progresses you will be able to control many other hardware devices just by speaking to the Google Assistant. Since Google is heavily integrating the Assistant in all their products, I believe that within a few years one will be able to operate all hardware through Google Assistant. You may find that switches and knobs will become a thing of the past.
Beginning of the AI Era?
It’s currently hard to imagine the Google Assistant answering questions as naturally as a human. However, if you look at the significant improvements Google, and others, have made in AI, this seems like the next natural step. For example, Google Translate has improved 60% in comparison to its previous version, bringing its capabilities to 92% of a human translation level.
With many other examples like autonomous cars, image recognition and voice recognition, we can see how AI is already becoming an integral part of our life. You have probably already felt the improvement if you use Google Now’s voice recognition or the Google Photos search and with the accelerating speed of technological breakthroughs, expect AI on every smartphone to overtake humans in many tasks.
This launch is a statement by Google. They are proclaiming that their AI is ready to understand and help you with whatever you need. While this may not be the case quite yet, it is a start of a new era in which AI will be an integral part of our lives.
The views expressed are of the author.
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