Privacy concerns aside, Google Assistant could be amazing.

Nowadays we live in a world where privacy and security are important topics. I’m not ignorant to those topics, but for this post, I just wanted to think more like a younger me and remove some of the limits we impose upon ourselves as well-informed adults. What if Google Assistant really worked? What if we were willing to let it know everything? How useful, productive, creative, and amazing could it be? Google Assistant could be amazing and revolutionize the world of AI assistants.

This post and the ideas suggested are meant to foster creativity and spark imaginations. I invite you to take off your grown-up hat for a bit and share some imagination with me.

Now.

Google Assistant (GA) is the next evolution of Google Now. It looks to be a more conversational and context-sensitive AI assistant that provides more relevant information when and where we want it.

This sounds like a straightforward concept. It’s one that even the current iteration of Google Now attempts to do and does a reasonable job in many cases. Every few weeks or months it seems like Google Now is more capable and tied into more of our personal “Googleverses”. Even now, Google can detect events in emails, recognize our voices and various commands, suggest results based on our location, save notes, track our fitness (or lack of), schedule appointments, answer many questions and so much more. But it still doesn’t feel aware or interconnected.

Soon.

Google Allo example showing Google Assistant. Copyright Google.Assistant may be the start of a whole new breed of AI assistants that take full advantage of all of the machine-learning that was a common theme at Google I/O this year. The best current example of this is the demo they showed using Allo, Google’s new messaging app set to launch this summer. In the example Google used (see example below), you can see a very common example of how Assistant might integrate into a very typical conversation we might have with a friend.

Google Allo example showing Google Assistant. Copyright Google.

Google Allo example showing Google Assistant. Copyright Google.

In the example, two friends were discussing dinner plans and “Italian” came up as a there. At that point the user was able to ask Google Assistant about “Italian restaurants nearby” right from within Allo. Assistant is integrated right within the app itself – not a disconnected instance from a separate search of Google. That’s pretty cool.

So this is where things are likely to be in the near future. What if we jump ahead a couple of years and imagine Google does the best they can to make Google Assistant “all that it can be”? Again, privacy/security concerns aside and “grown-up” hats off. Here we go!

Data. Relevant Data. Lots of it.

The kid in me is really excited about this – and the grown-up too (when that hat is on). I feel like so much is possible with Assistant when you factor in Google’s cloud capabilities, the data available, machine learning and all of the hardware, software and services that are all interconnected. Why even limit this creative discussion to what Google has direct control over – right?

We have phones, tablets, computers, TVs, cars, watches, wifi routers and more all using apps like Google Search, Gmail, Hangouts, Photos, G+, Spaces?, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Keep, Maps, Contacts, Fit, Music, Movies, Youtube, Wallet and many others all connected to the same Google cloud and potentially ALL accessible to Google Assistant. This doesn’t even factor in third-party apps/sites that billions of people use and regularly connect to Google Accounts or use on Google device – or just share publicly available information on.

That was a long list and a lot of information that I likely could have made shorter, but I wanted to make a point. There is so much data available across so many different devices for so many different people all over the world.

Popular Google apps/services and what data they might provide.

App/Service

Main Data/Content

Search Topics of interest, history, and sites.
Gmail/Inbox Contacts, events, tasks, interests, social connections, and groups.
Calendar/Keep Where you were/are/will be. With whom, when, and tasks.
Hangouts Interests, recent/key contacts, and social connections.
Photos Photos, faces, places, visual interests, and social connections.
Google+ Key Contacts direct and indirect, interests, and social connections.
Spaces Groups of contacts and specialized topics.
Drive/Docs/Sheets/Slides Interests and projects.
Contacts/Calls Who, when, how often, and social connections.
Maps Where you are, eating, and going.
Fit General health, location, and social connections.
Music/Movies Personal entertainment, interests, and inferred personality traits.
Youtube Topics of interests.
Wallet Purchases, trends, brands, interests, and personality.
Android (Phone/Wear, etc) App preferences, location, proximity!!!, surrounding audio, and current actions.
Google Home Same as search, but more relevant to home, personal, and possibly guests.
Google Wifi-Router Connected devices, history, activity, and possibly guests.

…and many more like Brillo., Nest, Blogger, Analytics, and so on…..

Just a vision or two later (and a lot of hard work)

I can truly imagine some crazy things that might be possible with Google Assistant. I am not going to be satisfied with just some smart messaging assistant. If Google Assistant really wants to assist then I really want Google to see this post and think long and hard about what they are planning to do. I don’t want Assistant to be some half-committed project that gets partially going and then just fizzles out. For the record, I don’t think that is the plan for Assistant, but I do think Google needs to really think outside the box as far as where Assistant could be in 2-3 years.

Provide me with relevant information….not just when and where I need it but also when I don’t know I need it and in a way that I need it. I want Assistant to help me make better, more informed decisions based on several levels of information that I may not be aware of. I want Assistant to present information to me in a way that is timely, actionable and saves me time and effort.

In the near future (if not already), I expect Google will know where I am, where I was, and where I might be going. I also assume Google has parsed relevant data from many of the apps I use, sites I visit, etc. It has my calendar, contacts, calls, photos, docs/files, maybe purchases I have made, and some of my personal preferences as far as video/movies I have watched and music I have listened to. It may even know how active I have been (or not) recently. It’s not a far stretch to imagine that Google might know what I tweet/post about either. You get the point.

Google Assistant could be amazing? How?

Before we get to the fun stuff, it’s worth noting that there are currently apps and/or services that can achieve or simulate some of the “AI-like” tasks I will discuss here. The differences are that the current apps/services:

In many of my scenarios, multiple “assistant-like” apps would be needed to accomplish my goals. Not to mentioned they would need to be able to work together.
They are likely simulating AI and will not be based on the sort of Machine-Learning AI we should expect from Google.

They usually require manual setup and only do what you essentially tell them to do – even if those tasks become somewhat automated.

Imagine Google Assistant being on your phone and basically having access to “everything” your Google account has access to. No additional steps needed. Always actively learning from your behavior, data and environment. A truly intelligent AI assistant that is interconnected with you, your data, your activity and your needs – even if you aren’t aware of them yourself.

Here are just a few examples of what might be possible.

Example #1: Allo & Hangouts on Steroids

The example of Allo that we have already seen is great. However, it still requires intentional interaction with Assistant. What if we don’t know there is useful information available? What if Assistant could help us be more informed and make better decisions without interaction? What if I am messaging a friend back and forth and we are trying to make plans to go hiking this weekend. Maybe we also mention invite our friend, Scott. During the conversation, Assistant might notify us that the weather is going to be rainy this weekend. It might also prompt me to “”Add Scott to Conversation?””. It may detect that we are listing possible locations and provide easy access to a Google Map view that ALL parties can move and draw on in real-time. It’s also not unreasonable to think reviews and photos could be accessible. Maybe we are listing supplies to bring and Assistant creates a SHARED Keep note we can update.”

Google Products Assistant Might Learn From:
Allo/Hangouts, Calendar, Weather, Keep, Maps, Contacts, Inbox/Trips, Photos, Local Guides

Third-Party Products to Consider:
Facebook, Twitter, Expedia

Example #2: Preparing for a Meeting with a Contact

Imagine you have a meeting with someone tomorrow. Assistant sends you an email with relevant info about the contact such as recent emails, shared files, and possibly public social media info related to him or her and their company. It may even prompt you to update your contact info based on new info available.

Google Products Assistant Might Learn From:
Calendar, Contacts, Gmail/Inbox, Drive/Docs, Keep, G+, Photos (w/ Contact & Tent. Album), Knowledge Graph

Third-Party Products to Consider:
LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, Slack, etc

Example #3: Smarter Traveling

Maybe I have plans to travel to Texas on a certain date. Assistant may notice trends on social/news sites relating to a weather emergency or some other event that would affect your travel. Assistant may notify you about this (which you may have been unaware of) and ask you if you would like to cancel/change your flight plans and consider notifying contacts you may have emailed or scheduled with. Alternatively, Assistant may ask you if you would like it to create a checklist in Keep of things to pack for the trip if you still go.

Google Products Assistant Might Learn From:
Calendar, Gmail/Inbox, G+, News, Google Flights, Contacts, Keep

Third-Party Products to Consider:
Facebook, Twitter, Expedia, etc

Example #4: Hosting a party in a “Google Home”

You are having guests over to your place for a party. You have the event scheduled and various meals planned from browsing recipe sites. You may plan to play music and take photos at the party to remember how much fun it was. Prior to the party, Assistant might put together an Event email with a summary of everything you have planned. It may create some note ToDo lists for you as well so you are ready for the party. Assistant might utilize Google Home or your router to detect when your guests arrive. It may even give you an option to share your wifi automatically with them, and then create a Shared album in Photos and prompt you to allow your guests to collaborate and add photos. Oh, and a custom Summer Party playlist could be created based on the music preferences of all of your guests’ Google Music history and the theme of the party. Your Nest thermostat could be adjusted to compensate for the extra guest and the sliding door they keep opening.

Google Products Assistant Might Learn From:
Google Home, Search & History, Calendar, Keep, Google Wi-fi Hub, Play Music, Photos, Nest, G+, Spaces

Third-Party Products to Consider:
Facebook, Twitter, Recipe Sites, etc

Wrapping things up

Thanks for coming on this trip with me and “letting go” for a bit. I encourage you to share your own thoughts and examples in the comments. Now let’s hope realizes how Google Assistant could be amazing.

Optionally, you may now put your “grown-up” hat back on.

If you are interested in seeing even more examples of mine, click here.

Latest Comments

  1. Labanya Kr Choudhury June 21, 2016
    • Russ Buchmann June 21, 2016
  2. Patrick June 22, 2016
    • Russ Buchmann June 22, 2016

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