The Google Now intelligent personal assistant service was introduced mid-summer with the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system for the Nexus 7 tablet and a variety of Nexus devices. Originally it was not available for the Samsung Galaxy S3, which offers its voice-enabled mobile personal assistant, S Voice (see story here). But reports began circulating this week that Android 4.1 Jelly Bean will come to international Galaxy S III models by next week, and it also was noted in reports during Google Now’s launch that that service could work in tandem with other voice assistants, letting the user choose which assistant to enable.
Google Now, the company says in a video, provides “the predictive power of now. You get just what you need to know right when you need it.” Users can type in search terms or activate voice searches for quick answers to queries for sports team updates, weather forecasts, and the like, getting information back either as voice responses or as text. It reportedly gets an assist from Google’s Knowledge Graph, a database of 500 million entities, to deliver its capabilities.
But it’s that predictive power where things get interesting. Users that let Google know where they are and what they browse can get personalized results from calendars, searches, and locations with the Google Now Cards feature. For instance, just swipe up and it will give you traffic conditions and alternate routes to work from its Traffic card, or tell you what buses or trains are next when you are near a public transport stop. A recent search for a flight will keep you updated on delays and traffic conditions to the airport, while once your web history reveals your favorite sports team, you’ll get updates on current scores, upcoming games, and even options to buy tickets. Another cool one: For upcoming appointments, it lets you know when you should leave your current location to make it to the next venue in time, based on traffic and distance. You can also use the service to translate words, convert currencies, and connect with time zones.
And, earlier this month, Google had planned to update its search app for Apple iOS. It isn’t Google Now per se, but it does offer voice-based answers with contextual awareness – to questions about the weather or sports scores, for instance – but sans the Cards capability.
Clearly, the intelligent personal assistant space is in full swing these days. But as exciting as these developments are for users, drama on the vendor side isn’t lacking either. Apple and Samsung are going at each other in court over patent infringement. This week at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington -- Samsung wants to overturn an order to stop selling the Galaxy Nexus in the U.S. until a patent-infringement case brought by Apple can be held – Apple charged Samsung with seeking to steal market share. Its Galaxy Nexus phone, Apple said, copies what is at the heart of iPhone’s Siri assistant, Bloomberg reported.
According to the report, “the patent is for a unified search feature that captures results from multiple sources, such as the Internet and e-mail contacts. [Apple lawyer Mark] Perry said that ability forms the heart of Siri, because consumers like the comprehensive results they get when they ask a question.” The Galaxy phone still is on the market in the States.