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The New York Times reported on Sept. 21, 2016, that Google Inc. is rolling out its new messaging app called Google Allo. It is another addition to the ever-growing list of existing smartphone chat apps, most of which already have a dominant presence across different parts of the globe. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Apple Inc.’s iMessage have a strong global footprint. However, there are others like Line, WeChat, and Hike Messenger, which dominate the Asian markets, mostly India and China.
Google Allo wants to say hello to the users of iOS and Android mobile platforms for which it releases today, as reported by the Verge. The adage “looks can be deceptive” perfectly befits this chat app. The messaging app is quite unlike its competitors, despite resembling them. As USA Today reports, basically, Google Allo wants to say hello using the same combination of plain text, emojis, pictures, and interactive stickers that any typical smartphone messaging app offers. However, what makes the messaging service offbeat is a Google’s version of artificial intelligence (AI), which it provides.
Google Allo has been deeply integrated with Google Assistant, which is its homegrown AI assistant. The Pocket Lint website confirms that Google Assistant is only an iterative version of the existing virtual assistant, Google Now. The search engine giant showcased it at its annual Google I/O Developer Conference held in May. Moreover, it also positioned this extension of Google Now as an improved form of communication between the users. The upgraded AI-powered virtual assistant, which Google Allo wants to say hello, is set to be pitted against Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri.
CNET reports that in order to get started with Google Allo app, the users have to download it from either the Play Store or the App Store. Once done, they need to setup their profile by authenticating their identity. This requires typing in their name and number and uploading a selfie (an optional step). After this, the app using the virtual Google Assistant will pull up the search results in the users’ chats and seek user permission to use the device’s location. At the same time, the chat app would also guide the users on using the Assistant in future chats.
According to USA Today, some of the enhanced capabilities of Google Allo include:
‘Smart Reply’ Suggestions
Google Allo allows users to converse smartly with one another. This is possible by using a host of ‘smart reply’ suggestive buttons which can be tapped to provide a shortcut response pertaining to the last thing discussed. For example, when talking about the movies a user likes to watch, one of the smart reply choices that can be tapped on by him/her is that “he/she is an action enthusiast.” In addition, the app also has a provision to allow the users to reply smartly based on the pictures of plants, animals, and other objects which Google identifies. For instance, if a user sends his uploaded selfie to a friend, he/she can respond by just tapping the smart reply suggestion “nice smile.” Similarly, if the same friend sends the user a picture of a spaghetti, the user can choose to respond by tapping on a smart reply choice which reads, “mouthwatering,” or “looks delicious.”
Google’s new messaging app not only tries to make the conversation interactive but also realistic. It gives ample opportunities and options of self-expression to its users. People often use emojis to add emphasis to an exchanged message to make it sound like a ‘whisper’ or ‘shout’ . However, Google Allo allows the users to add such tweaks to their outgoing text messages also. Before hitting the send button, people using the app can scroll the send button up and down. This movement resizes the font of the text to add or reduce the level of emphasis attached to it. Another exciting expressive feature wrapped up in Google Allo is that the users can scribble or type over their own photos before sending them. Unfortunately, this feature is presently only limited to Android devices. However, a planned roll-out to iOS devices is also in works.
Heavily inspired by Snapchat, the going incognito feature mentioned above allows the users to set an expiration date for privately exchanged end-to-end encrypted messages to make them disappear after they have been read. The users have the option to choose an expiration timeline that can range anywhere from five seconds to one week.
Despite these attractive features of Google Allo, the famous National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower, Edward Snowden has actively discouraged people from installing and using it. According to the Independent, Snowden openly criticized Google’s latest app soon after it launched, for compromising on user privacy. He accused it of allowing data breach.
Snowden cited the promise of temporarily storing user data on Google’s servers, which a developer of the Google Allo app belonging to the company’s communications department made while speaking to the Verge in May, as reported by ZDNet. Snowden’s crackdown on the safety claims made by the app came after Google backtracked on transient data storage. Independent reported that Google stated that it intends to retain all user data for improving certain features of the app. Snowden suggests, that in this case, law enforcement agencies would have easy access to all data.
Finally, regardless of the truth, at present, Google Allo appears interested in wanting to say hello to everyone. The coming days will reveal how the people respond to this friendly request.
By Bashar Saajid
Edited by Cathy Milne
THE NEW YORK TIMES: Daily Report: Will Google’s Allo Make It in the Messaging App Field?
THE VERGE: Google Allo review: This is fine
cnet: Getting started with Google Allo
USA TODAY: Google releases its AI-infused messaging app Allo
Pocket-lint: What is Google Assistant, how does it work, and when can you use it?
INDEPENDENT: Google Allo: Never use it, says Edward Snowden
ZDNet: Google Allo: Don’t use it, says Edward Snowden
Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Niahrb’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
First Inline Image Courtesy of james vreeland’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inline Image Courtesy of nicodangelo’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License