Yahoo News reported earlier today that ‘Google Now’, a new app featured in Google’s upcoming Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” operating system, could well be telepathic.
Google Now is similar to Siri, the “intelligent assistant” in Apple’s iPhone 4S. But it does not merely answers questions posed to it in natural English. Google Now collects and remembers information about you, from what you search for on the web to where you go throughout the day, and has a home page with a series of “cards” about what it thinks that you want to see. Imagine if Apple’s Siri could read your mind, and knew all the questions you’d asked recently and all the ones you were likely to ask!
Dieter Bohn of The Verge tried to find out whether Google Now really works, using Google Now hands-on. Bohn indicated, “The auto-population [of cards] is both a blessing and a curse. When it works, it works well”. Previous searches show up as cards, allowing users to flip through them instead of having to ask the same question again. Bohn added, “you sometimes feel as though you don’t have direct control over your cards.”
Apple’s Siri has already faced privacy issues. Technology Review’s Brian Bergstein reports that IBM has disabled Siri on its employees’ iPhones, due to concerns about “sensitive information” being uploaded to Apple’s servers. Privacy concerns for Google Now will be the same that people have had with Google for a long time now, in that, Google remembers everything about you.
Google Now vs. Siri
Search Engine Land has reported a comparison between Google Now and Siri. Up until now, Siri was the differentiating feature between Android handsets and the iPhone, even though Google already has voice search. The new Google Now female voice actually sounds less like a machine and more natural than Siri. Since there is no name as yet for Google Now, we can call it “JB” (for Jelly Bean).
A side-by-side video comparison of Google Now (on Jelly Bean) and Siri (on iOS 6) shows that JB is faster in almost every instance and notes the more natural sound of the JB voice vs. Siri. JB even appears to be better than Siri in some ways.
JB is good at producing facts, initiating calls, getting local data, sending texts and emails. However JB does not multitask and interact with the user or hold a dialog with the user. Siri has the capacity to engage in multi-stage conversations and ask clarifying questions, although not across all Siri functions.
JB can be considered an enhanced version of Google Voice Actions with text-to-speech output. But Google’s expansive search index gives it an edge over Siri in some situations. When Siri does not have an answer, it asks if you want to “search the web.” JB does not have to do that because it delivers the results from its index, eliminating a step and gets you information more quickly.