Google held their annual developer-based conference called Google I/0 last week and they announced a number of buzz-worthy new features that could mean some interesting changes in the digital world for both consumers and small businesses.
Following are the top five developments from the conference that captured our interest:
Google has entered the virtual assistant world with the Google Assistant application (yes, the lower case a is intentional by Google). It appears to be an upgraded version of Google Now and is positioned to take on competitors such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.
The advantage Google assistant appears to have is that it can carry on a conversation with the user who may have follow-up questions to their original query. For example, if you ask it a question like “Ok Google, what band recorded the album ‘Let It Be’?” It will respond with “The Beatles”. You could then ask “what other albums has that band recorded?” and it should respond with the correct answers.
The goal of Google assistant appears to be a personalized, voice-activated service that can handle everything from basic internet search queries to complicated questions that can include follow-ups. The one thing the application doesn’t have is a personal name to call it like Siri or Alexa, it will only respond to “Ok Google…”.
Google is set to enter the messaging space currently ruled by Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger with a service called Allo. The advantage to this messaging service is that Google assistant is built right into the feature. So whether you are a group of friends chatting about that night’s plans or co-workers working on a team project, you can still use the capabilities of a search assistant without leaving the conversation.
Other aspects of the messaging service include a “whisper shout” feature that allows you to scale your text up or down in size to subtly make it look like you are either shouting or whispering in text. Allo also has a smart reply feature that can anticipate and provide up to three responses for you to what someone is saying to you. For example, if someone texts “Hey, it’s my birthday” you may get suggested responses that you can send with a click of a button like “happy birthday” or “how old are you”?
From a security standpoint, Allo offers a regular or incognito mode for all chats. When a chat is “incognito”, all messages on either end and while in transit will be fully encrypted. However, when chats are incognito, Google assistant will not be available.
Aimed directly at Amazon’s Echo, Google Home is a voice-activated smart speaker that allows you to connect to Google and its services from anywhere around your house.
Expected to be available by the end of 2016, Google Home has Google’s search algorithm built right into it allowing users to retrieve information through voice commands on the speaker the same as they would by typing it in on a desktop computer or smartphone. The product will also allow users to access personalized Google features like their calendar or contact list.
For the audiophile, Google Home connects to the Google’s Play Music service and will allow any Google Chromecast-based speakers to connect to it wirelessly so users can play music wherever in their house they choose.
Instant Apps is a feature that virtually cuts out the middle man when it comes to downloading new applications on your smartphone. Using the feature, users no longer have to download entire apps, they can basically stream it without taking up as much of their device’s storage memory.
The advantages to this app include that one-time use apps are quicker to get and can immediately be discarded afterward. For small businesses who may want to share a link to their app through social media or email marketing, it allows their customers the ability to try the app without having to find and download it from their app store.
The Firebase platform which Google first bought in 2014 had some major improvements announced at the conference. The app, a key tool for small businesses and developers who create apps, will now be fully integrated with Google’s existing suite of tools and services.
The new features will include an analytics module, a “crash” reporting tool, a test lab to try out apps before they are published, an integrated messaging service, a media storage system, and a remote config that will allow developers to make changes to their existing apps without having to publish the new version.