Google Now’s underpinnings explored

The Jelly Bean version of Google’s Android OS is coveted primarily for the Project Butter responsiveness enhancements that smooth out UI navigation. The more I use the OS, though, the more enamored I become with Google Now. This information aggregator on steroids combines search, voice recognition, and a measure of intelligence that provides relevant details before you ask for them. The Verge has taken a closer look at what’s going on behind the scenes, offering interesting insight on what seems to be an integral part of Google’s vision for the future.

For me, the best part of Google Now is the voice recognition engine—which, according to The Verge, uses neural network technology initially developed to recognize cats in video clips. When applied to speech, the neural network focuses on base sounds, or phonemes. This approach is reportedly tolerant of different accents, tones, background environments, and microphones. Switching to a neural network for speech recognition cut the error rate by 20-25%, Google says, a pretty substantial improvement.

Google Now’s real potential lies with its ability to pull information from a number of different sources, including your inbox and calendar, your smartphone or tablet’s GPS, and the wealth of data spread over the Internet. Increasingly, it relies on Google’s new Knowledge Graph, a sort of mini-Wiki that provides relevant—and more importantly accurate—information to accompany traditional search results. Responding to searches is one thing, but accurately predicting what data users need at any given moment is where the real magic happens.

As one might expect given its history, Google is taking its time developing Now. New information categories, otherwise known as cards, are being added slowly, with only a handful making the cut for the latest 4.2 revision of Android. Hundreds of cards are apparently in the pipeline, though, and it will be interesting to see how the service evolves.

Comments closed
    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 7 years ago

    Hmm, neural net technology, where I have I heard that before…

    • provoko
    • 7 years ago

    Google no?

      • helix
      • 7 years ago

      Google Know

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    FYI, since this is Google-related although nothing to do with this story…the Nexus 4 specs page now states HSPA+ 42 connectivity, it used to state HSPA 21.

      • Helmore
      • 7 years ago

      They have always stated it had a DC-HSPA+ radio capable of 42 Mbps AFAIK. At least, they always mentioned it in the few hands-on video’s I’ve seen, like one on Engadget for example.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 7 years ago

        Clearly ‘they,’ as in Google, didn’t always say that since the Google specs page said 21Mbps. Just a mixup somewhere, but the conflicting information made it confusing. Now all the info is the same!

      • funko
      • 7 years ago

      trying to figure out of HSPA+ 42 has any sort of latency benefit over HSPA+ 21 on the same HSPA+ 42 network. any ideas? i know the down speeds are faster, and perhaps the uplink is slightly faster, but i dont really have spped complaints with T-Mo on my 21 device, just latency.

    • NeelyCam
    • 7 years ago

    Am I willing to give up Flash for Butter Now?

      • brute
      • 7 years ago

      i cant imagine that flashing ur toast is as good as buttering it

      • Namarrgon
      • 7 years ago

      You don’t have to; it still works fine.

      Download the Flash apk from [url=http://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/archived-flash-player-versions.html#main_Archived_versions<]Adobe's archives[/url<], install, and use it with Browser or Firefox etc.

    • codedivine
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]uses neural network technology initially developed to recognize cats in video clips[/quote<] Clearly a very important problem.

      • brute
      • 7 years ago

      no longer

      • glynor
      • 7 years ago

      Isn’t that [url=http://abstrusegoose.com/496<]this AI[/url<]? The one that was able to successfully identify the cats 15.8% of the time? Still cool though.

    • dashbarron
    • 7 years ago

    All it needs is an uppity voice, and we have Jarvis or any flavor of AI.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 7 years ago

    Google Now has no idea what my 4-year-old daughter is saying. Neither does voice recognition typing with the stock keyboard.

    It knows what I’m doing just fine, and it’s probably for the best that it doesn’t understand her.

      • thanatos355
      • 7 years ago

      The baby translator from The Simpsons anyone?

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        Well, she doesn’t pronounce Rs or Ls very well. They all sound like “wuh”. She wants to send a text to her mother that says “Mommy I love your face” but she says it “Mommy I wuv yow face!” and it types all manner of strange things.

    • ludi
    • 7 years ago

    Old: Big Brother Is Watching.

    New: Google is in ur pocket, recording ur life.

    Gotta admit, though, the speech-to-text voice recognition capabilities on Android are pretty impressive, and getting quicker.

      • TheMonkeyKing
      • 7 years ago

      That’s a Google in your pocket? I thought you were just happy to see me.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    On June 27, 2012, Google Now was unveiled as part of the premiere demonstration of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, December 20, 2012. The next day, the machines rise!

    !:o

      • Arclight
      • 7 years ago

      Sigh, i can only give you one thumb up. Well played Sir.

    • sweatshopking
    • 7 years ago

    i saw the new iphone version. i don’t think it’ll get much adoption, because having the home button bring up your talking app is way less work than opening an app. siri was first on iphone, and it’ll remain that way.

      • Helmore
      • 7 years ago

      Yes, but Siri isn’t quite as sophisticated as Google Now in many ways.

        • sweatshopking
        • 7 years ago

        it’s more work. that’s a huge issue.

          • Helmore
          • 7 years ago

          You’re right, but you can’t really expect Apple to open up the home button functionality. It would be pretty awesome if Apple allowed you to configure what happens when you long press the home button though.

            • sweatshopking
            • 7 years ago

            MS opened up the home button functionality on windows phones. why wouldn’t apple? on windows phone 8 ANY app can take advantage of the service, and program for it.

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