Possible future of Google Now
Google now is the intelligent contextual system that presents information to the user before user asks for it. It has been around for 3 years now since its introduction with Jelly Bean(4.1) in 2012. It has gone through several iterations since its introduction. Depending on what phone you have, Google now lives either on the far left side of the launcher or swipe up from bottom or long press on the hardware button.
The more you see these cards as they join the ecosystem after every few weeks, the more apparent it is that these are not just cards with information but micro tasks that user can act upon when they are presented to them contextually. Take for example the currency card that appears when you visit a different country, it presents you with a micro task for currency conversion UI. This is super helpful. The only problem with it is, that you need to be looking for these cards actively, based on where Google now resides on the phone. Its not easily accessible or you just forget to check. How would you make Google now super accessible without being actively looking for it? I mean isn’t that the promise of “now”? One way to do is to send notification for every single card that is presented contextually and bombard user with notification hell. Yuk.
The other way is something that Google might already be working on and the answer maybe hidden in a small feature they announced at IO last year. That feature is called document centric approach to recent apps. Let me help refresh your memory if you have forgotten about this feature. Document centric approach allows user to have multiple cards in recent view originating from the same app. Here is a comment from Adam Powell who worked on this feature.
Let each piece of your app deal with its own lifecycle and not worry about its peers or parents in the abstraction hierarchy. Trying to do some sort of unified management of everything all in one place will make your head explode. Programmers have abstractions for a reason. ☺
So for example, If you are chatting with 3 people in hangouts, this feature allows you to have 3 recent cards on 3 different conversations or like chrome can have all its open tabs in recent view. Which brings us back to the possible future of Google Now. Yes this approach would allow Google to put these micro task cards into recents whenever they are contextually relevant to user needs.
So imagine when you landed at the airport, the currency conversion card that we discussed earlier is the first card in recents that would allow you to act on it . When you are about to leave a restaurant, open table task to pay for your dinner is the first card in the recents (Image Above). Contextually relevant, as soon as you step out of the restaurant, Lyft/EasyTaxi card is waiting for you to pay for the drive. On reaching home, Wink card takes the precedence. Argus alerts you to go to bed by 11PM. When its time to sleep, Alarm micro task is waiting for you to set alarm for the next morning.
So basically you did all the above without opening any app. You must be saying yeah well even to access recents you would have to press a recent button. Yes, but only for now. Recent cards with document centric approach has to be the home screen for android in future and leaks have pointed to the same.
Robert Scoble back in 2013 wrote on TNW
I’m hearing from inside Google that Google is working on a contextual OS that might see the light of day in 2015
In terms of computing, contextual awareness as described is an idea that computers can both sense, and react based on their environment in much the same way our brain interpret various stimuli. Google Now with contextaully aware micro tasks ability is just going to be the very first step towards contextual OS. Google IO is fast approaching!