Are you ready for your own personal Google?
Sometimes, it’s the little changes to language that give away a company’s ambition. At the unveiling of Google’s new Pixel phones yesterday, CEO Sundar Pichai started the event not by talking about what users can get from Google, but what they can get from their Google. Using artificial intelligence and its new digital assistant, said Pichai, Google’s computing power will be available in every facet of users’ lives. It’ll be seamless and pervasive. "Our goal," he said, "is to build a personal Google for each and every user." Not a single Google that we all can use, but an individualized Google for everyone.
This linguistic shift hints at the new priorities resting at the center of Google’s future plans. Like many other companies, Google is putting more and more resources into its digital assistant — a voice-controlled entity that sits between you and the digital world, managing your life and (hopefully) making it easier. But for the concept to actually work in the way the company promises, Google needs two things: better artificial intelligence, and more information about your life than you ever knew existed.
For Google, this is an old ambition repackaged with new vigor. Before Google Assistant existed, there was Google Now. Initially released in 2012, it promises to deliver "just the right information at just the right time." Heading to work soon? Google Now will tell you about the traffic. Going out to see a play? Here’s that email you need with your seat reservation. But all this only works if Google has access to the digital imprints of your life. That means your location, calendar, and email; when you got to work, where your work is, and how you get there. It’s the tech world’s most popular transaction: convenience in exchange for information.
But with the launch of Google Assistant and the company’s increased investment in artificial intelligence, the need for this data is becoming ever greater. It’s not just that Assistant can’t tell you about your upcoming events if you don’t let it look at your calendar, but if Google wants to improve how its AI functions, it’s going to need information from all its users. This is because deep learning — the main engine of artificial intelligence — relies on huge amounts of data to function and learn. At the Pixel event, Pichai highlighted Google’s advances in areas like voice and image recognition, but this is partly the result of serendipity. Google just happens to have vast stores of data in these areas. If it wants to improve its AI assistant, it’ll need similar amounts of information there, too. And so we have the shift to individual, multiple Googles....MORE