The KickStarter
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The KickStarter

Keen: Google Launches AI-Powered Pinterest Rival

A low-key experiment to find high-key interests

Image source —

Google has an internal incubator team called ‘Area 120’ which is responsible for creating experimental apps and services just launched an AI-powered app called Keen.

It’s co-founded by CJ Adams who says that Keen is going to be the alternative to “mindlessly” browsing online feeds.

The experts have already started calling it a future Pinterest rival that curates the topics and interests using the search giant’s machine learning.

The app is like a modern rethinking of the Google Alerts service, which allows users to monitor the web for specific content.

Except instead of sending emails about new Google Search results, Keen leverages a combination of machine learning techniques and human collaboration to help users curate content around a topic.

Each individual area of interest is called a “keen” — a word often used to reference someone with an intellectual quickness.

The Idea Behind Creation of Keen

The idea for the project came about after co-founder C.J. Adams realized he was spending too much time on his phone mindlessly browsing feeds and images to fill his downtime.

He realized that time could be better spent learning more about a topic he was interested in — perhaps something he always wanted to research more or a skill he wanted to learn.

To explore this idea, he and four colleagues at Google worked in collaboration with the company’s People and AI Research (PAIR) team, which focuses on human-centered machine learning, to create what has now become Keen.

Currently Keen is available on web and Android, there is no official update yet for the iOS app.

How Keen Works?

Technology can not always understand what we love to spend time on.

Keen was built to give users control over their recommendations.

Keen is a new way to curate, collaborate, and expand your interests.

Keen leverages the Google Search index, combined with user feedback to provide personalized recommendations that improve over time and help you expand your interests.

The idea looks pretty simple, Google wants to know: what are you keen on?

To use Keen you first sign in with your Google account and enter a topic you want to research.

Here’s a short introductory video about Keen from their official YouTube channel.

Curate And Share

You can curate for yourself or for other people.

You can use Keen to build a collection of your best resources on a topic you know well and share it with people who would enjoy your curation.

The keens can be private or public, so you control what is shared and who can contribute.

Expand And Explore

For every keen you create, it uses Google Search and the latest in machine learning to remain on the lookout for helpful content related to your interests.

The more you save to a keen and organize it, the better the recommendations become.

Even if you’re not an expert on a topic, you can start curating a keen and save a few interesting “gems” or links that you find helpful.

These bits of content act like seeds and help keen discover more and more related content over time.

You can also follow keens that others have created, discovering thousands of hand-curated lists from the community, and getting alerts when new things are added.

Spend Time On What You Love

Keen isn’t intended to be a place to spend endless hours browsing.

Instead, it’s a home for your interests: a place to grow them, share them with loved ones and find things that will help in making this precious life count.

How Does Keen Compare With Pinterest?

This is obviously not a particularly revelatory pitch.

Just about every social media feed you browse is trying to personalize its content to your interests in one way or another.

And Pinterest has already captured the hobby-focused side of this market with its pinboard-style visual design — two characteristics that Keen is trying to imitate.

So what does Keen have that Pinterest doesn’t?

Well, for one it has Google’s expertise in machine learning, which Adams says will surface “helpful content related to your interests.”

“Even if you’re not an expert on a topic, you can start curating a keen and save a few interesting ‘gems’ or links that you find helpful,” says Adams.

“These bits of content act like seeds and help keen discover more and more related content over time.”

But it’s not like Pinterest doesn’t invest heavily in AI as well.

And while machine learning’s ability to find patterns in data outstrips that of humans in many areas, when it comes to niche hobbies and interests, I’d wager that the collective intuitions of a big and engaged (dare I say, keen?) userbase will outstrip those of the machines for the time being.

How Keen Helps Find Interests And Topics?

This could be something like learning to bake bread, bird watching or learning about typography, suggests Adams in an announcement about the new project.

Keen may suggest additional topics related to your interest.

For example, type in “cooking recipes” and Keen could suggest “cooking recipes books” “cooking recipes books,” “cooking recipes for beginners,” “cooking recipes videos” and so on.

Click on the suggestions you want to track and your keen is created.

Image source — Keen
Image source — Keen

When you return to the keen, you’ll find a pinboard of images linking to web content that matches your interests.

Image source — Keen

In the cooking recipes example, Keen found articles and YouTube videos, blog posts featuring curated lists of resources, an Amazon link to cooking recipes treats, and more.

For every collection, the service uses Google Search and machine learning to help discover more content related to the given interest.

The more you add to a keen and organize it, the better these recommendations become.

It’s like an automated version of Pinterest, in fact.

Once a “keen” is created, you can then optionally add to the collection, remove items you don’t want, and share the Keen with others to allow them to also add content.

The resulting collection can be either public or private.

Keen can also email you alerts when new content is available.

Keen, however, isn’t tapping into your search history.

It’s only pulling content based on interests you directly input.

And unlike the news feed, a keen isn’t necessarily focused only on recent items.

Any sort of informative, helpful information about the topic can be returned.

This can include relevant websites, events, videos, and even products.

Final Note

Google, to some extent, already uses similar techniques to power its news feed in the Google app.

The feed, in that case, uses a combination of items from your Google Search history and topics you explicitly follow to find news and information it can deliver to you directly on the Google app’s home screen.

Only time will tell if Keen will be replacing Pinterest as a content curation tool.

It certainly has potential because it’s the project from the search engine giant Google.



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Hardik Raval

Hardik Raval


A software developer and content creator by choice. Let’s connect —