So what is this Google Magic that we are going to see with the new Pixel phones? The real clues on what this means came a week before in New Delhi, not in San Francisco. At the Google for India event, the search giant showcased how it has progressed on Machine Learning and Machine Intelligence, more on the former which improves the latter in the long run.
Today, CEO Sundar Pichai said the machine learning has now reached accuracy level of 93.9 per cent. While suggesting that the path ahead would be tougher he said that, however, each percentage change translated into a huge experiential improvement for the user. For instance, with pictures Google can now understand more detail and context and not just the subject like before. Also, this was making translate and text to speech much more impressive and India has been one of the test labs for most of these technologies.
But what does this mean for Pixel? Well, Pixel is the first smartphone that will come with the Google Assistant inbuilt. Nothing new you might say, especially when we have had Siri for many years and Google Now for at least a couple. But yes, it is a big thing because your assistant is also an intelligent, always learning, assistant now. So over a period of time it learns how you do things and how you like things to be done. As someone who has been using Google Allo for a couple of weeks now, I am very impressed by the progress of ‘my’ assistant.
Yes, the MY assistant bit is important too. Pichai says the idea is to make a different Google, or at least Google Assistant, for each user. So my Google will be different from your Google, for over time it should be able to throw me different results from what you get. Google already does this in products like Google News, but when this comes to search things will be very different. In India, if you are in a Hindi speaking state, Google already shows you a Hindi results tab. But the Google Assistant should be able to learn that you are not a Hindi speaker and filter out those results soon enough, maybe even throwing you results in your own language.
Then there is the Google Home, the Wi-Fi speaker with Assistant built in. So Google will be learning about you and answering your queries when you are home too and these will be contextually aware and different what it shows on the phone.
Also, the Assistant is getting partners and will be an open ecosystem. So Indian Express, for instance, will be able to send daily updates and alerts to everyone who likes our content. Or a grocery chain will be able to interact with you to check if you are out of any stuff at regular intervals and take orders. Assistant will be able to respond to direct action requests as well as conversation actions.
But let’s not forget that at the end of the day Google is an advertising company too. So it would be really tough to keep the ads away. So every morning there could be an ad pop-up asking you to consider a publisher other than the Indian Express, or to try out a different grocer. With Google knowing so much about you, there is a question of how comfortable you would be with this. For instance, we already see what this can do to you online with ads following you even on the mail based on the content and context. We can just hope Google will not go for an overkill when it comes to selling ads and making money. We might, just might, put up with some of it for the sake of the convenience that is the Google Assistant.