First, Microsoft. Then, Facebook. Now Google. During Google's I/O keynote today, the company announced Google Assistant, its own attempt to make your life easier with the help of an automated messaging buddy. Let's hope it has better luck than others. "We think of this assistant as an ambient experience that extends across devices," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said. "It will be on their phones, the devices they wear, in their cars and in their homes."
Then Pichai dropped this beauty, the Amazon Echo-like Google Home:
The biggest problem with chatbots is their low threshold of convenience. After all, it might be annoying to have a million apps on your phone, but using them certainly isn't that hard. If a chatbot complicates that process with extra typing or AI errors, people aren't likely to use them.
The other big design problem is that most people use messenger services casually, which makes interpreting that lax back-and-forth particularly hard. The result, at least in the case of Facebook's early bots, is a robotic conversation that masquerades as casual conversation through funny gifs and humour. Not exactly a compelling example of the future of mobile communication.
However, Google's quick demo seemed pretty damn impressive, displaying a wide understanding of inputs and commands. Of course, manicured dev conference demos can be deceiving. Regardless, if anyone could do chatbots well — it'd be Google. It's unclear if this represents the finished product, but it sure looks good.
Short gif demo of Google Assistant in action.
Google Assistant is the first vibrant expression that "hey, maybe bots aren't terrible." Now that Google, Microsoft and Facebook are embracing this chat-based future, there's no escaping that they way you use your smart devices is about to change.