Google Now is a virtual assistant that makes use of your Google search history to help predict what you need before you need it.
- Grid-based launcher integrates your OS with the Google ecosystem
- Voice-activated virtual assistant
- Card-based information draws from predictive reasoning
- Strong selection of voice commands and questions
- Fits comfortably within the already expansive Google ecosystem
- Requires giving Google access to a large amount of personal information
- Doesn't do enough to set itself apart from other virtual assistants
The idea of the virtual assistant is in vogue. From Apple's Siri to Microsoft's Cortana, some of the biggest tech names in the business want their technology to be integrated into every aspect of your daily life. It makes sense that Google would want to get their foot in the door in this field. After all, their search engine is omnipresent in most peoples' lives, and their suite of cloud-based software is built around the idea of simplifying our day to day affairs. And then there's the fact that much of what these virtual assistants do is answer queries, a system that Google has polished to a science. Fortunately, Google has done more than just slap voice recognition functionality on their search engine and call it a day. Google's ambitions with Now are bold. Rather than simply create a virtual assistant that's ready to answer your questions quickly and concisely, they want a VA that knows what you need before you can even ask the question. How effectively this works can vary. While "Google Now" is a general term for the system's predictive virtual assistant functionality, it manifests to mobile users as a launcher. Effectively, it's a skin for your phone that changes your basic operating system and coordinates the fundamental aspects of your task making to a single interface. These display in the form of cards, and Google Now draws on your personal information to determine what cards are right for you. Depending on the information you provide, it might show you everything from sports scores to stock reports to news on your favorite TV show. That information you provide is important here. Google's intentions here are vast in scope, and entering the information they need to serve their customers often feels like filling out a complete and comprehensive survey of your life. Multiple tabs allow you to let Google Now in the loop about practically ever aspect of your life, and Google Now also tracks much of your search history and other aspects of your phone's usage to better learn about your behavior. This might raise the suspicions of the more security conscious users, but for those willing to trust Google's intentions here, it can be a pretty powerful tool. Within a week, Google Now should have a pretty firm grip on what you need and when you need it, and the card-and-swipe based interface is an intuitive way of sorting through information. As for the more traditional virtual assistant components, they work about as well as one might expect with no huge surprises along the way. Voice recognition is generally strong, and the integration of Google Now with the traditional Google search engine is a near perfect match. Many of the built in commands also integrate with other software in the Google ecosystem, like referring you to the Google Play store when asking about a particular song.