While Google announced an array of artificial intelligence innovations at its I/O conference earlier this year, the Allo messaging app which the company rolled out on Wednesday may be the best one yet, and signals the future of messaging apps. Google started out with
G-Talk and then moved on to Hangouts, but lost to Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Telegram in the race—the third time may be a charm for the US-based search engine provider. To stand apart from the likes of Messenger and WhatsApp—which offer a host of services, from chatbots to video messaging—Allo’s USP is the weaving in of Google Assistant, the improved version of Google Now which accepts voice commands to run a chat. The Assistant not only provides services like translation, it also takes care of your travel bookings through Google directing you to an airline/hotel website, delivers news and makes location-based searches for restaurants or movies. It also analyses responses from your past chats and conversations to indicate possible replies—this is something Google’s InBox already uses for e-mail. In addition to analysing text, Assistant can also analyse photo content and provide a more advanced search service where the user can just ask it to pick out all the photos that feature, for instance, sunsets; Assistant will also remember your preferences and give suggestions based on them.
While Allo only supports Google-related services right now—you still can’t book a cab from the chat itself—you can expect Google to move in that direction soon since other chats are already doing more than that. Messenger allows you to make payments from the app itself with the help of chatbots and location-pins are pretty standard in all chat apps today. So, apart from incorporating features like payments and bookings, Allo could integrate with Google’s IoT concept, Brillo, to allow users to control devices in their homes while chatting. Nor is this going to be restricted to Allo. As has been seen in the smart-phone/tablet/laptop market, almost any innovation by a firm becomes the industry standard within a fairly short period of time. If Google’s Allo represents an integration of several features within an app, so do Messenger’s chatbots; Hike allowed you to chat with people over SMS in case they didn’t have Hike, and Allo does the same.