iPhone and iPad users, you now have competing intelligent personal assistants fighting for your attention. On Monday, Google announced it was releasing its Google Now personal assistant for those two Apple devices as part of its updated Google Search app, thus giving Siri a run for her money.
In a posting on its corporate blog, Google said that "Google Now is about giving you just the right information at just the right time." The idea behind Google Now, the tech giant said, is that "there's no digging required: cards appear at the moment you need them most -- and the more you use Google Now, the more you get out of it."
Google Now is available as part of the Google search app, which will accept voice control. Voice search was added last October.
Also in October, Google added integration with Knowledge Graph, which provides contextual knowledge that is intended to provide knowledge about a subject, rather than just returning words that match the words sought. The Knowledge Graph helps support natural language queries, so that, for instance, asking Google if you need an umbrella results in a weather report being shown.
The Android version of Google Now, by contrast, is integrated into that operating system. Google Now provides the weather at a day's beginning, issues reminders of your next appointment, and offers the best route to work, given the day's traffic. The app can also provide updates for a news story you've been following, or remind you when to leave to catch that plane.
In addition to informational cards that are presented when you need them in Google Now, the Search app will respond to voice commands, providing a parallel to Siri's answer-bot side. A user taps the microphone icon and speaks the questions, which are answered back. For example, "Show me nearby pizza places" provides a map of nearby restaurants with directions, phone numbers, ratings and hours. The updated Search app, which requires iOS 5 or later, comes with a brief tutorial about Google Now.
With Jelly Bean
In June of last year, Google released its Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS, which included the new Google Now service. It utilizes a user's search and location history, calendar and other trails of information to know, for instance, what a user's normal commute is, if you're at a particular restaurant where it can recommend some dishes, or places to check out further down the street you're on.
Apple's Siri was introduced with the iPhone 4S in 2011. While Siri was a sensation when it first appeared, the bloom is somewhat off that rose as other intelligent voice apps have appeared.
Earlier this month, for instance, Burlington, Mass.-based Nuance Communications unveiled "conversational ads" in a move that could be dubbed Siri Goes to Madison Avenue. After an ad appears on a mobile device, it speaks to the user, inviting a response. The user can speak a reply, which can generate a response or result in an action by the ad.