Google Now Gets Personal in Fight Against Siri

Take that, Siri. Google Now may be about to take a stronger interest in the things that you care about.

Some screenshots posted by Android Police suggest that Google's intelligent assistant might soon add an Explore Interests feature, which would give Android users a faster way of letting Google Now know just exactly what information they want to track.Credit: Android PoliceCredit: Android Police

One of the screenshots shows a selection of categories — sports, TV, movies, musicians, people and stocks. Presumably, you would tap the topics you're interested in, and then further select subcategories within those topics. (As an example, a second screenshot posted by Android Police shows the people page with subcategories for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and other newsmakers, entertainers and athletes.)

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It's unclear precisely how this will work — these are just screenshots at this point, and Google told TechCrunch that it's merely an "experiment" being tested — but the ability to flag the things that interest you would cause Google Now cards to pop up when those interests are in the news. The idea seems to be to add more customization to Google Now beyond basing cards on your search history or location.

Google is tinkering with personalizing Google Now at the same time Apple is getting closer to the fall release of iOS 10, which promises more powers for its built-in Siri assistant. In addition to opening up Siri to third-party developers, Apple is also using its intelligent assistant to surface proactive suggestions in Maps, predictive typing suggestions like locations in phone numbers in the iOS keyboard and more customized information on the iOS lock screen.

Then again, more personalized assistance seems to be a driving force at Google as of late. At its developer conference earlier this year, Google announced Google Assistant, which CEO Sundar Pichai pitched as an "individual Google" built for each user that will be able answer questions, order meals and take care of tasks like buying movie tickets.

Google is also building a voice-powered speaker similar to Amazon's Alexa-equipped Echo that figures to tap into Google's search prowess to differentiate itself from the popular Echo. The kind of personalization offered by an Explore Interests feature would be another way Google Home could stand out from the crowd.

And it's getting to be quite a crowd, with Amazon, Apple and Microsoft all pouring efforts into voice-powered assistants. Should Explore Interests turn out to be more than just an experiment, we look forward to seeing how it could enhance Google's own intelligent assistant efforts.

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