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From leader to challenger? What I saw at Google #IO16

Source | LinkedIn : By Sreeraman Thiagarajan

Virtual Reality (VR), Messaging, Conversational commerce and Smart Assistants are among the hottest areas of technologies today and Google just made its move to elevate the game to higher altitude to take on likes of Amazon, Apple and Facebook. Here’s how it unfolded at I/O 2016.

Google I/O, the annual technology conference for developers, marked a special milestone this year as it completed ten years of wooing developers to build on top of Google APIs & products. The Shoreline Amphitheatre venue the backyard of Googleplex at Mountain View, California is where it all started in 2006.

More than 7000 people from around the world scrambled in at this massive open air amphitheatre. As Sundar Pichai, who took charge as Google’s CEO last year, walked-in to trigger the three day long developer festival, he started the keynote by reminding us about the bygone era of big, bulky and slow computers when Google was founded seventeen years ago. Today, over three billon people access internet and he attributed that to the rate at which processors and sensors have evolved to make it all truly mobile.

He articulated how we want everything from hailing a cab to expecting groceries to show-up at our doorstep with just a tap on smartphone, and indeed how Google wanted to stay ahead of people’s expectations. As a string of search queries started to form on a giant screen behind him, he announced that over 50 percent of search now comes from mobile, out of which 20 percent are voice searches. Pichai went on to show us how Google Search has invested in computing, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to evolve from merely displaying a list of ten blue links to provide rich, and fast loading results that are completely contextual and actionable. He clearly set the context for what was coming up next on the keynote – The Google Assistant.

Another butler
The idea behind Google Assistant is to help people get things done in real world. In Pichai’s own words, it’s “We want to be there for our users, wanting to help and say – hi, how can I help”. This sounds similar to Apple’s Siri and what Zuckerberg announced this January on how he intends to build a JARVIS like digital butler inspired from Marvel’s Ironman.

Siri, Cortana, or even Google’s own ‘Ok Google’ can only provide you information but Assistant can help you with contextual answers and even transact. The key differentiator is that, Google Assistant is a concierge in digital avatar. To illustrate this, Pichai showed us a demo where he searches and conversed only using natural language voice commands to look for movies nearby, on seeing the search results he instructs Assistant saying “we want to bring the kids this time” and Assistant narrows it down with movie listing suitable for entire family. He picks The Jungle Book and voila, four tickets are booked and the tickets are displayed as QR codes on screen. All of this without a having to type a single syllable or hassle of being redirected to another app or web page.

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