The centrality of artificial intelligence, local marketing and (yes) optimism draws lines with Amazon, Facebook –

The Google Assistant debuted just two years ago at the Google I / O Developer Conference, but it quickly took a more central role in the products and services the search giant is working on. .

At Tuesday’s Google I / O, executives outlined the next steps for the artificial intelligence-based Google Assistant, which has become the spirit of Google Home voice-activated devices, and how AI is more integrated with everything Google offers, from Maps to Gmail. at Photos as well as new products such as the Lens virtual reality tool and the natural language program that will allow businesses to run a chatbot capable of having conversations with consumers “in the real world”.

Where Google Maps can now tell you if the business you are looking for is open, how busy it is, and if parking is easy to find before you arrive, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, Alphabet, told attendees and viewers. “The lens allows you to simply point your camera and get answers to everything from that building in front of you … to the concert poster you passed … to that lamp you loved in the store window. “

Optimism against. Our apologies, Small Biz Assistance Vs. Competition

Despite growing calls for more regulation on how companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and the platforms that use them collect, manage and deploy consumer data, the tone of Pichai and other executives speaking to Google I / O was striking for his optimism. and the intention to go further in the way of connecting its services to businesses and customers. And again, AI was at the center.

“AI has a huge opportunity to transform many areas,” Pichai. We are already seeing encouraging applications in the health field. Two years ago, Google developed a neural network capable of detecting signs of diabetic retinopathy using medical images of the eye. This year, the AI ​​team showed that our deep learning model can use those same images to predict a patient’s risk of heart attack or stroke with a surprisingly high degree of accuracy.

That note of optimism is what struck Joshua Lowcock, EVP, Chief Digital & Innovation Officer USA / UM Global Brand Safety Officer, who compared Google’s decisions to Facebook’s recent F8 developer conference, which featured Mark Zuckerberg primarily responding to fallout from Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of social network user data during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Additionally, Lowcock also viewed Google as highlighting local brick-and-mortar business services as opposed to Amazon’s “enemy” position as seen by SMEs.

“At Google I / O, the emphasis was on making small businesses and small businesses the fabric of communities,” Lowcock said. Geomarketing. “If you consider the fundamental engineering difference between Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa: Assistant is meant to answer research questions, Alexa is designed to help you shop on Amazon. Offers like Google Duplex give Google Assistant an edge in local (physical) commerce, it positions Google as a friend of small businesses, and indirectly opens the door for Assistant which also helps with local e-commerce (not just commerce) . It is a counter-position to Amazon which consists in driving towards Amazon. It also helps Google in Asian markets, where supporting entrepreneurs and local communities is something Google stands for.

Another IO theme was balancing tech well-being, being mindful of small businesses in the local community makes technology personal and local – another point of difference for Google Assistant, Lowcock said.

“Regardless of all of the above, the tone of Google I / O vs F8 was very different. Google I / O was optimistic about the future of technology and the much more visionary big bets around AI. F8, was less visionary and more excuses and iterations last year around VR, augmented reality and stories (less visionary than last year and Google I / O), ”Lowcock added. I noticed that Google did not mention Fake News in its redesign of Google News, but made a point of not filtering the news. “

Google Assistant voice change

Google Assistant is now available on more than 500 million devices, works with more than 5,000 connected home devices, is integrated with more than 40 automation brands, Scott Huffman, vice president, engineering, Google Assistant, told the I / O crowd. In addition, it will be available in over 30 languages ​​and 80 countries by the end of the year.

In addition to speaking in more languages, Google Assistant’s own voice is evolving.

Highlighting the advancements in DeepMind’s AI and WaveNet technology, Google can now create new voices in just a matter of weeks and is able to “capture subtleties such as pitch, rhythm, and any pauses that convey meaning, so the voices sound naturally and unique, ”Huffman said. “Starting today, you can choose from six new voices for your Google Assistant. And John Legend will lend his melodic tones to the Assistant later this year.

Voice is also getting “smarter” with a feature called “Multiple Actions”, which is already starting to roll out. With this tool, the Google Assistant will be able to understand more complex queries such as “What’s the weather like in New York and Austin?” “

New looks “delivered” for Google Assistant, Google Maps

Huffman also described a redesigned Assistant experience for smartphone screens. The Assistant will give you a quick overview of your day, with suggestions based on the time of day, location, and recent interactions with the Assistant. To provide a summary of tasks and list items, we integrate popular notes and list services from Google Keep, Any.do, Todoist and many more.

“We’re also giving the Assistant a new food pickup and delivery experience that’s not limited by a chat-like interface, so you can order your favorite meals from Starbucks, Doordash and Applebee’s, in addition to partners. existing ones like Dunkin ‘Donuts and Domino’s, ”Huffman said.

The new visual design will be available in the Google Assistant app later this year.

Especially for local businesses, the assistant will arrive at Google Maps navigation later this summer.

“You will be able to text, listen to music and podcasts and get information without leaving the navigation screen,” Huffman said, adding that there would also be built-in safety measures so as not to distract drivers. , as Apple announced its iOS 11 update last summer. For example, users can say “Hey Google, read my messages to me” and you can get a summary of unread texts with the option to reply with the voice.

Google Maps becomes personal

Google Maps will take a virtual assistant page in another way. For example, the evolution of search through voice activation, where users can customize unique responses as opposed to an endless list of “blue links”, will also influence next steps for Google Maps.

“Say goodbye to the endless scrolling of recommended restaurant listings or group texts with friends that never ends with a decision on where to go,” said Sophia Lin, senior product manager, Google Maps. “The next time you explore a new location, meet up with friends, or host outsiders in your own town, you can use Google Maps to make quick decisions and find the best spots.”

The redesigned Explore tab will serve as a “hub for Google Maps users for everything new and interesting nearby”.

“When you view a particular area on the map, you will see dining options, events and activities depending on the area you are viewing,” Lin said.

Trending lists like the Foodie List show you where taste makers are going and help users find new restaurants based on information from local experts, Google algorithms and “trusted editors” like Enthusiasm, which acquired Zagat from Google in March, among others.

“We’ll even help you track your progress against each list, so if you’ve crossed four of the Meatpacking District’s best restaurants off your list, you’ll know you have six more to try,” Lin added, highlighting a whole lot. new way for businesses to compete for consumer discovery.

Google Maps business / consumer matchmaking

To go further, Google Maps will also have a scoring function called “Match”.

Tapping on any place to eat or drink, the user will display the “match” – a number that suggests how likely you are to like a place and the reasons why.

Here, too, Lin highlighted the role of machine learning in generating this score, which is based on a few factors: what Google knows about a business, the food and drink preferences a user has selected in the past on Google Maps, where they’ve been, and whether the user has rated a restaurant or added it to a list.

“Your matches change as your own tastes and preferences change over time – it’s like your own expert sidekick,” Lin said, “helping you quickly assess your options and make a decision with confidence.”