Google Patents App That Suggests Social Media Replies

Google has a new app

Google recently patented plans for a new software application that can study how people react on social media and suggests different replies. According to Ashish Bhatia, software engineer at Google the popularity of social media as a means of communication has grown tremendously over the years. Keeping up and replying to all the messages has become a burden for many.

The new software gradually learns how people respond when using social media whether this is used for personal or professional purposes. The software analyzes past interactions and suggests replies based on the collected data, added Bhatia. Eventually, as the system is developed the automated suggestions and that of the actual person could become indistinguishable.

The software will be taught to use a formal reply when dealing with business associates as compared to a less formal approach when communicating with a relative or friend. Based on the software’s suggestions the person can just choose and click on the most appropriate response to Facebook posts or to tweets.

However, many view the new software as taking out the “social” from social media. According to Hadley Beeman, a social media technologist, the subtleties of human communication may be overlooked by the software when suggesting replies. The software may not distinguish between what is important from what is not important for a person.

Prof. Shaun Lawson who specializes in social computing at the University of Lincoln raised the concern over whether people these days are really so obligated to answer every tweet and post that they will have a need for this software. Instead of enhancing the communication process of social media this just diminishes the whole human-to-human communication, he added.

The past few years have seen the patents submitted by Google to the U.S. Patent & Trademark office grown in number. For example, in 2003 Google was awarded just four patents. This year is a completely different story. Based on the record of the patent office, Google is winning 10 patents every day. Counting all the patents awarded this year alone, the company could rack up a total of 1,800 patents before the year ends. This number is enough to push Google, for the first time, ahead of perennial patent awardees General Electric and Intel in the list of top 10 patent recipients.

The executives at Google may have learned from the 2007 $100 million loss of Apple over intellectual property tussle in their iPod product. The late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple,  since then made a point “to patent it all” just to be sure. Thus, everything found in the Apple iPhone is patented from the design of the rounded corners to the buttons in the display.

For Google, keeping everything as a trade secret is no longer feasible given its impact in the future and in the industry. Every idea the company researchers, managers and technical persons come up with must soon be patented. This may be the main reason behind the sudden increase in patents awarded to the company over the past few years.

It is no longer surprising why every time a new idea comes up in the laboratory of Google they patent it right away. These include the most recent software application that suggests social media replies for people to keep pace with their social media obligations. Necessary or not, Google has found yet another way to get another foothold in the growing digital marketplace.

By Roberto I. Belda

MIT Technology Review

BBC News

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