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Thursday, September 24, 2015

How Google Now Really Works...

How Google Now Really Works...

Google Now is undoubtedly one of the best mobile assistants to date, with Cortana and Siri their assistance comes in the form of a voice, but with Google Now that whole concept is revamped to feature a voice less, smart card driven assistant. Using smart cards Google Now has rewritten the rules for virtual personal assistants, and has changed the way we interact with our smartphones. The purpose of this article is to show how Google Now works, discuss why the cards don't show up at times, and address the issues inherent in Google Now . Contrary to popular belief Google voice—think “OK Google”—is not Google Now. Google Now is a stand alone feature that operates using in app notifications called "smart cards", these cards work by pushing relevant information directly to your Google Now feed, and when you're done with them you swipe them away.*** This is not always the case, in fact some cards are actually not meant to be swiped away, and others don't show up as they should. Using personal discretion one will notice that when certain cards are swiped away, it, unlike most cards won't reappear. This is because Google Now unlike most virtual assistants aims to predict what you need before you need it, and it aims to do so with very little user assistance. According to Google, you can use Now to "get the right information at the right time, without even searching for it" (Google.com). This point is emphasized even further by PCWorld, which states that Google Now cards are "so prescient they're positively spooky" (PCWorld.com). This is not exactly true as many times Google needs help in determining which cards you need even though it doesn't ask for it. Take for example Feedly; with Google Now, in order to get helpful cards from Feedly you have to use the app—extensively—and more importantly utilize the feature of the app that Google Now utilizes. In the case of Feedly, the primary features that Google Now uses is the trending stories function; therefore in order for Feedly card(s) to pop up not only do you have to extensively  use Feedly, more importantly you have to use the trending topics aspect of Feedly when its card pops up on Google Now. Once the card pops up be sure to use it at least once a day. This will let Google Now know that the card is useful to you, and will make its appearance a recurring one. It will disappear on its own when Google feels it's no longer needed; swiping away certain app cards unlike default Google cards will prevent them from showing up again—at least for a (good) while. Allowing Google Now to predict what cards you need without having to ask for them would be ideal did it actually work. Unfortunately Google isn't very good at predictions, either intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore a lot of what is shown on your feed is more or less helpful.

According to Google you can get ‘information’ at just the right time without even searching for it (Google. com). In my extensive research on Google Now I have found that this statement is a false one. It's true that Google can and will give you information before you ask for it; however it's also true that Google more often than not, gets it wrong. Google Now supposedly can predict traffic for your commute; however this is not always the case, “Google Now hasn’t solved traffic yet, but… it is supposed to help you with your commute” (recode.net). Unfortunately in order to get Google to give you the best traffic reports you have to download one of its compatible third party apps; Waze is a good one—although, since this app is foreign made it's dubious that it's any good at predicting traffic in the U.S. As you begin to regulate your task to Google Now's third party apps such as Wunderlist, Google will start pushing cards for these apps onto your Google Now feed. “To get access to all these new Google Now cards, you just have to make sure you have the latest version of the official Google app installed, along with the latest versions of apps that you want to integrate into Google Now. Google says you should start seeing the new Google Now cards appearing in your Google Now feed ‘over the next few weeks.’” (bgr. com). Although it seems simplistic, Google Now operates in a non-simplistic manner. “Google Now is a context engine. This is a new theme of products coming out - that try to understand your context, automatically convert your context into a query and bring information to you that is useful to you.” (Quora.com). Basically, Google uses ‘algorithms and heuristics’ to give you context based Now cards (Quora.com). Google Now itself is an advanced algorithm, but in order to better understand what this means one needs to understand what an algorithm is. “When you are telling the computer what to do, you also get to choose how it's going to do it. That's where computer algorithms come in. The algorithm is the basic technique used to get the job done.” (HowStuffWorks.com). Essentially, Google Now does the opposite of this but the principle remains the same; Google Now finds out what to do by gathering and collecting information from its user—telling your computer (Google) what to do—then it executes its task accordingly. Herein lies the problem, because Google does not do this as well as it could. Google uses its index algorithm to collect a plethora of data from its users. One of the ways that Google does this is through a process called “Latent semantic indexing” (Seochat.com). For instance when you ask Google a question or issue a voice command, Google will use its latent semantic indexing to figure out what you're trying to say regardless of how it's worded; and in the case of voice actions, Google will follow through with a command regardless of how it's said with the premise that the command has the same meaning regardless of its wording. According to seochat.com, in order for Google to give better suggestions one must write/speak “normally” and “synonymously” in order to give the LSI (latent semantic indexing) the best results (Seochat.com). LSI aims to detect natural language and differentiate it from “robotic copy” (Seochat.com). Google uses these algorithms primarily for its voice actions; because of these algorithms Google voice actions can better predict what you're saying even if the phrases used are different from the initial command; so long as they remain synonymous with the original wording Google will be able to understand the command. According to Google your Audio Activity helps Google “recognize your voice and improve speech recognition”, it does this by “storing your voice and audio inputs to your account” (Google.com).

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Working Bibliography

Primary sources

Hill, Simon. "How to Get the Best out of Google Now." Digital Trends. June 11, 2015. Accessed December 8, 2015. http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/how-to-use-google-now/.

Strouchliak, Ivan. "Google Algorithms - SEO Chat." SEO Chat. January 27, 2009. Accessed December 2, 2015. http://www.seochat.com/c/a/google-optimization-help/google-algorithms/.

Secondary sources

How Now cards work. How Does Google Now work . Available at: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/2819496?hl=en. Accessed 2015.

Patterson , B. How to use Google Now cards: 7 tips for managing what they show you, when and why. PCWorld. Available at: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2925716/how-to-use-google-now-cards-7-tips-for-managing-what-they-show-you-when-and-why.html. Accessed 2015.

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