Google is constantly innovating web technologies, and is also now venturing into the world of voice and artificial intelligence. With it’s annual developer conference (Google I/O) taking place last month, now is a good time to check in on the tech giant’s latest technological advancements and the key takeaways for businesses. Google’s latest hardware, software, and services are poised to change how we do things – both as users and businesses.
The Big Hits: Google Assistant and Google Duplex
Of the most impressive announcements made at the conference this year were improvements to Google Assistant (Google’s version of Apple’s Siri) and a demonstration of a new technology called Google Duplex. These rank highly – particularly in terms of how far we have progressed with artificial intelligence and our ability to use computers to automate previously human-only tasks. It was announced that Google Assistant is now on over 500 million devices around the world and will be available in 80 countries by the end of next year. Improvements have been made to make the technology sound more human, and soon, it will be offered in a variety of new voices.
Google Duplex, as described by Google, is “an artificial intelligence (AI) system for accomplishing real-world tasks over the phone.” In short, it’s an artificial intelligence agent (accessed through Google Assistant) that can carry out tasks over the phone such as calling businesses to book appointments, make reservations, or find out business hours. A demo of Duplex’s ability to hold its own during Q&A with businesses was very impressive, including human-like “ummms” and other hesitations between responses to mimic human interaction. Since the event, there has been some backlash around the ethics of this since the bot did not declare itself a bot from the beginning. This is something businesses will need to be extremely cognizant of as they enter this new territory to ensure they do so in an ethical manner.
Nevertheless, this is truly revolutionary territory, and technologies like Duplex are going to drastically alter how people communicate with businesses. There is a huge need for brands to prepare themselves for how digital experiences with customers are going to be created when Duplex launches. Every company should be asking how they are going to meet the needs of new customer relationships mediated by AI and what investments they need to make in order to be ready.
Progressive Web Apps Going Strong
Progressive Web Apps (PWA) continue to grow in popularity and success, and Google announced some impressive case studies with data to prove how well PWAs are performing for international brands that have launched them. Starbucks, which launched its PWA last year, saw a 2X increase in their daily active users and have found that their mobile PWA also worked well for their desktop web audience as the number of orders placed on the desktop version grew to be about equal to the number of orders placed on their mobile version. Google cited that across advertising sites they measure, when a site switches to a PWA, they see on average a mobile conversion rate boost of 20%. For any business looking for a way to improve online conversion and user experience – launching a Progressive Web Apps is a proven no-brainer.
AI & Machine Learning: The New Frontier
Undoubtedly, Google’s largest research and development initiatives over the last decade have been in artificial intelligence and machine learning. This year, they launched ML Kit, a machine learning API for Android and iOS that allows apps to use machine learning for text recognition, face detection, image labelling, barcode scanning, and even detecting landmarks. This is an effort on Google’s part to help businesses take advantage of the technology they are developing and provide a full suite of more functional, less buggy versions of third-party apps that may already offer some of these solutions. With AI and ML capabilities being offered and harnessed by companies all over the world, every enterprise business needs to invest in its data efforts now or face severe competitive challenges down the road.
The latest technologies from Google are very real indicators that the norms of human behaviour, communication, and interaction will change drastically over the next few years as artificial intelligence and machine learning become more fully integrated into our daily lives. The perennial challenge for businesses is how to keep up with this influx of technological change. Now more than ever, companies need to take a partnering approach to leverage the full breadth of available expertise. This is the best way to maximize technology investments and the most efficient way to stay current, flexible, and adaptable in the kinds of digital experiences you can offer your customers.