Yesterday, I watched the Google IO 2016 Keynote presentation and I actually felt giddie: it was fascinating, albeit a little scary, to see how a company with that amount of resources and focus can make such large advancements towards a more technological society. Of all of the things they covered, a few things stood out for me.
Virtual Reality (VR)
VR is something that will probably be big. There are too many big companies pushing it and the experience is too immersive not to become a big thing. Exactly what role it will play in our lives is still to be determined, as so far only the Early Adopters are playing with it and they are by no means an accurate indicator of what the majority of people will do with it. That being said, Google is leading the pack here by integrating VR into their main OS, Android, and by pushing it on YouTube. Moreover, they are sharing spec sheets of what a Smartphone, headset and remote should have in order to work properly with Virtual Reality, or at least Google’s version (called Daydream).
This is the next step of Google Search/Now. We can already talk to Google, but this is Google trying to make the service more conversational as well as context aware. In order to do that, they are linking up all of their efforts in modelling the world, natural language processing and machine learning. I am sure that the first steps will be slow, but this shows promise. Furthermore, Google Assistant appears to be a building block that can later on be found in many other products and services.
One of those is Google Home. Goolge Home will be your home hub where the Google Assistant is basically the main actor. It will allow you to make queries, get things done, control your smart home and play media. The video they shared of the product is fascinating. It is incredible to see that we are already so close.
Messaging is an important platform for the near future. Google has tried with Google Talk in the past, more recently with Hangouts, and its next bet is Allo. Frankly, this will be an uphill battle for Google as it’s competing with some very big incumbents, particularly Facebook and Apple. That being said, Google is trying some new things here, amongst which is the inclusion of the Google Bot, which in reality seems to be the Google Assistant. You can include it in chats so that it can help get things done.
Although there was no direct product announcement, machine learning is everywhere in Google’s services. The advancements they are making are incredible. And the scary thing is, it looks like progress will only become faster. The final words from Pichai were great. They are on such a mission to advance in these things and the world could be a better place for it.
Are we ready for our machine overlords?
While I am excited about these products and services, they are all slightly scary. In order for them to really useful to me, I need to share personal things about me with Google. In fact, the benefits I, as a user, reap are directly proportional to the information I give Google. And this, in a nut shell, is the biggest challenge Google will face: making people overcome their fear of sharing with them. Getting and maintaining that trust.
I think Google can do it, though. I have written in the past about how I erase my Google history every month, but at the same time I am saving all my Photos with Google and wouldn’t want it any other way, because of the benefits it offers me. It’s all a trade-off. For me it was Google Photos and for someone else it could well be Google Assistant, but eventually we all need to make a decision: do we want the benefits enough so as to trust Google with our information? I think it is only a matter of time.
Furthermore, we have to trust in Google’s self interest as well. Google does not directly make money on me, e.g. storing my photos with them. The transaction is indirect: they need to know as much as possible about me, so that they can earn the most presenting me with ads. As a result, I trust, to a healthy extend, that they will do everything in their power to not endanger the trust I have put into relationship.
I, for one, will get Google Home as soon as it is released, and I will be happy to try out Google Assistant and Allo as soon as it ships. It’s a bit scary, though, and I hope Google will not fail my trust.