Google Now is a product created by Google initially for Android. However, in recent months, versions have been added for Apple devices and PCs as well. Google Now uses “cards” that Google builds which contain information displayed on the screen. Now also has a growing set of voice commands to which it can respond to your requests with a voice of its own.
Recently, Google added a new feature called quick answers. These new search capabilities are cross-platform, and focus on travel and logistics. Some items included are package tracking, reservations, calendar entries, and flights.
Google will continue to expand this list over time. Its goal is to make this type of information easy to obtain without having to dig through your email or spend time searching other apps. A Personal Assistant that Goes Everywhere
Google Now can make a wonderful traveling companion. Imagine being on unfamiliar roads and having Now automatically suggest alternate routes to help you arrive safely at your destination. You can ask questions or give commands to:
Google Now will answer many of these questions out loud.
Of course, you can also type in the commands, but with Android and iPhone devices, you can tap the microphone and use your voice to issue commands.
How Does it Work?
Google Now works by collecting a wide variety of information about you. It uses your search history, email, calendar, Google social media, and web services of which you’re a member to show you relevant information related to what you’re doing.
For the new quick answers feature to work, you must be logged in to your Google account. Google automatically blends different data sources of personal information from your Google account and outside sources (i.e. flight or package tracking).
Google Now works silently in the background until you need it. However, after you first set it up, it takes about a week for it to learn your movements and what you’re interested in. Google Now uses the phone’s GPS to figure out where you’ve been. Just let Google Now slowly collect information in the background while you go about your daily routines.
Over time, Now will start to help in various ways. For example, it might deliver real-time traffic alerts for your area, and recommend an alternate route so you can avoid traffic.
A Little Science
Even a simple request like “please book me a trip to Orlando, Florida” encompasses many tasks to achieve the goal. According to Dean, that’s a very high-level instruction. If you were to ask a human to do this, they would have a bunch of follow-up questions regarding lodging, layovers, and many other factors associated with traveling.
In the interview, Dean talked about how Google Now is a predictive search tool. For example, if the program is trying to give you a list of restaurant reviews, it might be able to make good suggestions based on the food that it knows you like from your profile. However, there may still be 30 different restaurants. A predictive search tool can help narrow down the search by asking, “Are you in the mood for Chinese food?”
Making it a Habit
Once you start using Google Now, you might find yourself looking at it almost every time you touch your phone. This is helpful because cards are more useful when they are updated regularly. Different cards will pop up as you use Google Now on a regular basis. If you have no interest in that card, you can disable it in the settings.
This information is about getting answers, not just links or data. Of course, none of that would be possible without the appropriate links and the data to back it up. As Google continues to make more cards for Now, each one anticipates more searches that you might want to make. The way that different cards are used on a daily basis will help improve the way voice queries are interpreted. The longer you use Now, the better it gets.
Get News in Your Neighborhood
Google is currently testing a new local news card for Google Now. This will allow you to ask for things specific to your neighborhood. For example, you might find out that a local convenience store is giving away soft drinks to celebrate their 10th anniversary. This new hyper-local news is difficult to curate and deliver.
Google is working on Now to make it deliver this type of information without an initial search. Now already has features such as local weather and businesses, but this hyper-local news card will help bring it right into your neighborhood.
The Future of Now
Google Glass: Imagine traveling while wearing Google Glass (Google’s wearable computer with optical head-mounted display). You look at the Washington Monument and suddenly information about this famous landmark appears before your eyes. Google Now and Google Glass will work together to provide this type of integration in the future.
Google Now predictive voice search may remind us of the Star Trek days of the past. However, as this technology continues to improve, it will likely bring us closer to the future that Gene Roddenberry envisioned.