Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Google Assistant

I followed along with the Verge’s liveblog of today’s Google I/O opening keynote and, for my money, the standout announcements of the day were Home, an Echo-like always-on hardware bot, and Assistant.

Assistant looks less like a new product and more like a refinement of Google’s other voice-query virtual assistant products, but that’s setting a significantly higher bar than much of the rest of the industry. From the Verge’s liveblog:

In the US, 1 in 5 queries are voice queries. “And that share is growing.” […]

There are over a billion entities in the Knowledge Graph, Google’s super database of stuff that it understands. […]

140 billion words translated per day

It’s that kind of scale that allows Assistant to be as accurate and fast as I saw in the demoes. If you feel comfortable with the privacy tradeoffs of a product like this, it has the potential of becoming indispensable in a way that Siri wishes it were if you’re the sort of person who likes speaking with devices.

I think there are a lot of people — myself included — who will see this as a glorified phone tree, but a super-reliable always-on virtual assistant is a boon from an accessibility and general usability perspective.

One thing remains clear: there is no company that can automatically interpret words and phrases like Google can. They are setting the high watermark and, believe me, it is very high.