Enter the Google Assistant

Why Google’s #madebygoogle presentation wasn’t about hardware at all.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Google for your world?”

Google’s #madebygoogle presentation featured a host of new hardware products: Pixel phones, the Google Home, a new Chromecast, and a VR headset. The internet chatter that followed mostly focused on these novel gizmos, but launching new hardware was never the real point. In many ways, Google’s Assistant was the main attraction and may very well prove to be the true game changer. Let’s take a closer look and we’ll quickly find how Assistant marks a shift in Google’s focus.

The presentation kicked off with an animation, in which Google’s logo (set above their ubiquitous search bar) is transformed into a flurry of people’s names. Google’s overarching goal, according to CEO Sundar Pichai, is to build an individual Google for each user.

Enter Google Assistant.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Google for your world?

This may sound overly broad and reaching, like most marketing speak. But, what Google is hoping to deliver with Assistant is broad, it’s as broad and reaching as the overlap between your life and the digital sphere. When Google talks about Google Assistant, what they’re really talking about is their immensely powerful machine learning and AI capability. Helping you access this AI is the job that Google hopes your brand new assistant will seamlessly perform. Providing you with easy access to Google’s rendition of your life, and your stuff.

Thus, Google’s Pixel phone is not so much an iPhone killer, but an interface for Assistant. (and, although mostly overlooked in the buzz that followed #madebygoogle, it was literally introduced as such). Google Home is also an interface for Assistant, wrapping it in a pretty, plastic package. Pixel and Home allow you to communicate with Assistant and Assistant communicates with your Google Suite. Say the word and Assistant will pull your appointments from Google Calendar or give you traffic advice based on your location in Google Maps. That’s a new experience. For a long time, these services have been working as silos, separately from each other. Over the years, Google has connected them for you, dropping flight information from your Gmail straight into your Google Calendar, for example. Conversely, Assistant puts you in control, it does away with the silos, connecting the information repositories for your benefit and unifying your digital experience.

From this perspective, you start to see a profound shift. Google’s Assistant (meaning Google’s artificial understanding of your life) will not just be another way for you to search your photos app, your email client, or the web. It’s not an additional access point. It’s the point of origin. It’s the central repository of your digital life and the brain of the entire operation.

This shift will ultimately make the separation between Google’s apps practically disappear for the user. Making services like Inbox, Translate, or even Search feel like strangely constrictive and limited visual interfaces due to the sheer breadth of Assistant’s reach. You’ll no longer be the one navigating various screens and apps to locate what you need. Assistant will have interpreted and executed your requests before you can open the respective app.

Want to take this brand new paradigm for a test drive? Have a look at Allo, Google’s new messaging app. When you type @google, you’ll be talking to your personal Google Assistant. It’s still in preview mode, so not a life changer just yet. But, you can ask it to show you all your pictures of your brother. Ask it to remember a code. Or ask it to show Friday’s e-mails. Step by step, your own, individual Google will seamlessly compile your once fragmented digital life.

With many thanks to samara parker