Google Assistant Adds Visual Snapshot to Provide a Simple Overview of Your Day
Google Assistant is rolling out a new feature called visual snapshot which takes maximum advantage of multimodal use on smartphones while offering a truly useful tool. Visual snapshot was revealed in a blog post by Deniz Benay, product manager for Google Assistant. It is described as a visual overview of your day with an emphasis on projected travel times, calendar and reminders. Binay writes:
“This week, we’re rolling out a new visual overview of your day when you open the Google Assistant app on your phone, with proactive suggestions and personalized information to help you stay on top of your day…Travel times are front and center, so you know when to hit the road whether you’re getting ready for work, a lunch meeting, or heading home for the night. As you scroll down, you’ll see your agenda, reminders, restaurant or movie reservations, your favorite stocks, upcoming bills, packages in transit, and suggestions for new Actions you should try.”
Visual snapshot is rolling out to Google Assistant on both Android and iOS smartphones. Typically, it takes a few days for everyone to have access. The blog post suggested this will support all languages so will likely move out beyond the U.S. soon.
Making Google Assistant Proactive by Anticipating Needs and Interests
To date, our digital assistants have been completely reactive. A user asks for something and the assistant responds or completes a task. Visual snapshot is a glimpse into information that is proactively offered. The new service will surface the information and suggestions based on “the time of day, location, and your recent interactions with the Assistant.” It will learn what you do and presumably consult other signals such as past activities and data stored in apps that anticipate what might be helpful.
This is similar to Google or Apple Maps “knowing” that you have an appointment upcoming or it is the typical end of workday and helpfully offering to start navigation. However, Google Assistant isn’t limiting its snapshot to directions. It is integrating various parts of your life on screen for a quick scan of your day and upcoming notifications. Google’s breadth of services could make this both a useful feature and something that entices users to make daily Assistant interaction a habit.
Taking Advantage of Multimodal Screen Features
A key advantage Google Assistant has over Amazon Alexa today is its robust smartphone presence. That solution enables a voice interface with a complementary screen when it is helpful. This is a a better way to provide map, schedule, weather and stock information and anything else that benefits from the efficiency of visual presentation. This likely will fit well into daily routines of most consumers as ReportLinker found in a 2017 survey that 46% of people check their phones before getting out of bed and another 28% while eating breakfast. Today you might have to consult three or four different apps to prepare for the day. Google Assistant wants to put it all in one app, presumably your first stop every day. Move over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Alexa flash briefings. A new attention hog is entering the fray.
A New Method for Discovery and Maybe Monetization
But, that’s not all. Google understands the value of attention and visual real estate. Note that visual snapshot will also provide, “suggestions for new Actions you should try.” As you scroll, Google can suggest a Google Action which may be helpful. But, how is that decided? Are these suggested Actions presented because they are trending (i.e. what’s popular) or maybe aligned with your interests (i.e. personalized)? Could they be sponsored suggestions? As tens of millions of users consult their visual snapshot each morning, Google Assistant could suddenly own the most valuable digital real estate available. If you have a Google Action, mobile app or content you would like to promote, this new awareness channel will have to be on your radar.
A Much Bigger Deal Than Siri Shortcuts
Visual updates is also a much bigger deal than Siri Shortcuts. For Siri Shortcuts to work, you need to download a separate app and then configure your preferred routines. Once you do that, it can be a useful tool. In theory, you could create something like visual updates although it’s not clear how you could render it simply all in one place. Google Assistant won’t initially allow users to tailor this feature, but could do so in the future. However, the key difference is the user doesn’t have to do anything. Siri Shortcuts could be a big deal if users go to the trouble to set them up. Google Assistant is offering a utilitarian feature that users can access immediately—no setup required.
Google Assistant is using AI to automatically create a solution that Apple would like to relegate to the human intelligence and effort of the user to configure. And, this strikes Amazon Alexa at its weakest point; the absence of a robust mobile presence. Amazon has recently updated its Android and iOS apps to enable Alexa access directly. Introducing something like visual updates for morning routines to complement the audio content-drive flash briefings would seem like an obvious move to establish more reasons to visit the Alexa app. Amazon doesn’t touch as many services as Google, but would likely be able to assemble a reasonable alternative that touches on calendar, weather and information.
Saving Users Time
Sundar Pichai mentioned at the Google I/O developer conference that the unifying theme behind what Google is doing is saving people time. Google’s shift from desktop to mobile to AI and voice has included many products and services with a variety of value propositions over the years. However, some of us recall when Google had a single product and no revenue. All it had was a search engine and that page was all about speed of load time and quality of results. The combination saved users time looking for information. That loadstar is also guiding the trajectory of Google Assistant’s first-party features. Visual snapshots seems to go back to the idea that saving time, in this case by anticipating needs and delivering timely information, will be a strong value proposition for Google Assistant users.