Google Releases SDK For Integrating Google Assistant Into Third-Party Devices

What Happened
On Thursday, Google released a software development kit (SDK) in “developer preview,” marking the start of allowing third-party hardware manufacturers to integrate its voice assistant in their products. Google Assistant is currently only available on select Android phones and smartwatches, Google’s Allo chat app, as well as its smart speaker Google Home. Using the “Actions on Google” API launched last year, developers can already create their own conversational experiences for Google Assistant.

What Brands Need To Do
This new SDK should help Google Assistant get on more connected devices, helping it to stay competitive with Amazon’s Alexa, which launched Alexa Voice Service (AVS) back in June of 2015 to allow hardware makers to add Alexa to their devices. For now, Alexa will likely still get to enjoy an early lead in the voice assistant race for a while, but as the competition heats up, consumers will have an increasing array of options to choose from. Google Assistant do have one big advantage over Alexa in search, and according to ComScore, by 2020, half of all searches will be voice searches. Brands needs to prepare for that future by developing conversational experiences for various platforms to make them readily accessible to customers.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in building Alexa Skills and chatbots to reach consumers on conversational interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The “Miller Time” Alexa Skill we developed with Drizly for Miller Lite is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience, supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Barrett ([email protected]) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Source: Ars Technica

Google Home Adds Support For Multiple Users

What Happened
With a major software upgrade, Google’s smart speaker Home can now recognize up to six different users by voice. This addition of multi-user support means that Google Home can now tailor its answers for each user and know which account to pull data to match who is asking. Google Home users can easily train it to recognize different voices by repeating “Ok, Google” twice, the recording of which is then analyzed by a neural network and stored locally for future references. Multi-user support is rolling out in the U.S. today and will expand to the U.K. over the next few weeks. Users must update their Google Home app to enable multi-user support.

What Brands Need To Do
In contrast to voice assistants on smartphones that are meant for one individual user, smart home devices are meant to serve multiple users in the same household. Adding multi-user support is a great way to expand the uses cases for Google Home and gives it a competitive edge to Amazon Echo or other voice assistants. It also gives Google a way to collect more personal data and help it improve the voice experiences that Home provides. As voice-activated smart home devices continue to mature and proliferate the market, more and more consumers at home will become reachable and individually addressable. Brands need to prepare for that future by starting to develop a conversational strategy today.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in building Alexa Skills and chatbots to reach consumers on conversational interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The “Miller Time” Alexa Skill we developed with Drizly for Miller Lite is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience, supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Barrett ([email protected]) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Source: The Verge

Burger King’s New TV Ad Intentionally Triggers Google Home To Tell You More

Google has yet to officially roll out ad products on Google Home, but that does not stop Burger King to hack the way the voice-activated smart speaker works to co-opt it into its latest marketing campaign. The fast food chain released a new TV spot that features someone in a Burger King uniform ceremonially uttering, “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?” For any user with a Google Home near their TV, this will trigger Google Assistant to begin reading the Wikipedia entry for the Whopper. Google is reportedly not involved in the ad’s creation.

While this ad is a clever way to grab people’s attention, it is also exploiting the personal assistants to deliver an unwarranted marketing message via a personal home device. Some may find it goofy and write it off as a joke, while others would find it invasive and disruptive.

Ethics aside, this unusual ad highlights not only the increased presence of voice-activated devices at home, but also the weakness of the voice assistants not being able to differentiate the voices of the users. (Google is reportedly working on multi-user support for Home, which should help alleviate this issue.) It would be best for brands to stay clear of such gimmicks and take the growth of voice-activated smart devices seriously by developing branded audio experience to serve customers.

 


Source: The Verge

Google Assistant Can Now Tell You When Your Food Will Expire

What Happened
Over the past week, Google Assistant gained about a dozen new actions (voice-only apps for Google Assistant, akin to skills for Alexa and Cortana), enabling new features and functions for Google Home and Pixel phones. One standout among this batch is one created by Chefling, a fridge-monitoring app. By enabling this action, users can share their grocery list with Chefling to allow its Google Home action to tell you when food in your fridge is likely to expire or suggest recipes based on ingredients in your kitchen.

What Brands Need To Do
Normally, Google Home users can ask Google Assistant to add grocery items to a Google Keep shopping list, but Chefling expands that use case to cover the post-grocery shopping activities. And Google Home’s voice-based interface makes it a perfect companion in the kitchen, where hands-free interactions are often preferred. When creating voice-based apps for voice-based smart devices, brands need to think about the extra value they can offer to enhance the user experience and establish a touchpoint with customers that are quickly embracing voice-activated digital assistant services.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in building Alexa Skills and chatbots to reach consumers on conversational interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The “Miller Time” Alexa Skill we developed with Drizly for Miller Lite is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience, supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Source: VentureBeat

Header image is a promotional image for Google Home 

Google Home Tests Audio Ads With A Partner Message For Beauty And The Beast

What Happened
Starting on Thursday, some Google Home users started receiving a short message informing them of the upcoming release of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast live-action remake when they ask for a summary of their day ahead. The message is delivered via the regular Google Assistant voice, so it blends in seamlessly with the other information typically included in the “My Day” summary such as weather, commute, calendar, reminders, and news. Some Android users are reportedly also getting the ad through Google Assistant on mobile.

The message does not appear to be targeted based search history or movie interests, and some users have expressed their dismay at the random insertion of this message into the “My Day” summaries. Google released a statement denying that this is an ad, claiming instead “the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales,” which seems to categorize this message as a sponsor message. Whether Disney paid for this Google Assistant integration is still unclear.

What Brands Need To Do
As voice-activated digital assistant services start to take off and reach more and more customer, figuring out how to monetize them with ad products seems like the natural next step for a company like Google, whose lion’s share of company revenue comes from advertising. So, it makes perfect sense that Google has started testing this type of audio ads on its Assistant service. Unfortunately, Google failed to consider how intrusive an unprompted brand message would feel to customers who don’t find the message relevant to their interests, which sparked a minor online backlash among users. Down the road, Google will certainly have to start fine-tuning the targeting of such messages if they want this type of audio ads to work. For now, chatbots and branded voice skills are still the best bets for brands to reach customers via conversational interfaces.

 


Source: The Verge

Google Home Adds Shopping Capabilities To Take On Amazon’s Alexa

What Happened
The competition between virtual assistants heats up again as Google adds ecommerce functions to Google Home, allowing users to buy products via voice from select Google Express partners, which includes Costco, Whole Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond, Fry’s, and Walgreens. This move signals Google’s intention to further challenge Amazon’s Alexa, which had enjoyed a high degree of integration with Amazon’s ecommerce infrastructure. Delivery fees start at $4.99 unless you have a Google Express membership that costs $95/year (or $10/month).

What Brands Need To Do
While it is unlikely that Google will be able to truly compete with Amazon in the conversational commerce space, considering Amazon’s strong advantage in this arena, this still marks an important addition to Google Home as Google continues to buff up its functions to hold its ground against Amazon’s Echo lineup. Earlier this week, reports indicate that both Amazon and Google are working on turning their connected speaker products into landline phone replacements. As smart speakers gain more functions and new selling points, more mainstream consumers would be sold on their increasing use cases and therefore become addressable via conversational interfaces. So, it is time for brands to either seek out similar partnerships with Google and Amazon or explore other ways to reach customers via voice-based interfaces, such as with a branded Alexa skill.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in building Alexa Skills and chatbots to reach consumers on conversational interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The “Miller Time” Alexa Skill we developed with Drizly for Miller Lite is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience, supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Source: TechCrunch

 

Google Invites Developers To Build “Actions” For Google Home

What Happened
Google announced on Thursday that it is now allowing select developers to create pre-approved “conversational actions” for its smart speaker and Echo competitor Google Home. The “actions” are essentially Google Home’s version of Alexa Skills, which allows users to activate new capabilities made by third-party developers for Google Assistant. Google is recommending services like its own API.AI to help simplify the “action-building” process for developers. and says open access will roll out to all developers in early 2017.

It is worth noting that Google Home handles two type of “actions”: direct and conversational. It’s only the latter that are open to developers to work on. Direct actions — commands that don’t require a conversation, such as turning on your connected lights — still require a partnership with Google.

What Brands Should Do
This announcement marks the gate-opening for brands to get into Google’s digital assistant service and smart home ecosystem, a first step in making Google Home a brand-friendly platform as Amazon’s Alexa. As Google and Amazon continue to make strong pushes for their respective conversational products, more and more mainstream consumers will soon become reachable via those emerging voice-based devices. Therefore, brands will need to explore opportunities in building advanced applications for these emerging platforms with highly engaging user experiences and conversational interactions.

The Lab has extensive experience with building chatbots and Alexa skills and we are excited to explore the new possibilities that Google Home is set to unleash. To help brands navigate the challenges and opportunities that the rise of conversational interfaces brings, we developed a proprietary system for building, maintaining  and analyzing conversational experiences called Dialogue that can guide you through every step of building conversational customer experiences. If you’re interested in learning more about this or have a client opportunity, please reach out to our Client Services Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Source: The Verge

Fast Forward: What Brands Need To Know About Google I/O 2016

Your guide to tech-driven changes in the media landscape by IPG Media Lab. A fast read for you and a forward for your clients and team.

The Highlights

  • Google Instant Apps allows brands to enable immediate access to their apps with the native experience consumers expect, including frictionless payments
  • Google Assistant is a personification of Google search for both voice and text with hints at brand partnerships
  • Daydream is a new virtual reality platform, building on Cardboard with headsets customized to future high-end Android phones and giving brands an important new platform to engage consumers with immersive content
  • Firebase 2.0 is a new toolset for brands to create apps across Android, iOS, and the web on a budget with integrated analytics to understand customer interactions

What Google Announced
Google’s annual developer conference started on Wednesday, and the company announced a series of products including a voice-controlled, smart home speaker; a rebranded and updated virtual assistant; a new Android Wearable OS; two new communications apps; and a new virtual reality platform. Wired has a great summary of all the announcements, but here’s what marketers need to know:

  • Google unveiled Android Instant Apps to enable fast, temporary access to Android apps with just one click. Similar to App Streaming, which was released last year, Instant Apps allows users to access native Android apps without installing them. Unlike App Streaming, Instant Apps requires that app development is modular, with parts that are quickly downloaded as needed. Importantly, Android Pay works with Instant Apps so that consumers can pay for products and services in two taps instead of filling in their payment and shipping information.
  • Google consolidated OK Google and Google Now voice search to the rebranded and expanded Google Assistant, a conversational virtual assistant that can process natural language and offer contextual answers and follow-up questions. Google Assistant will be available on all platforms eventually, but for now it will be the service powering the voice on Google Home, a connected speaker similar to the Amazon Echo, and via text in Allo, Google’s new smart messaging service. It will start with a limited number of partners including Uber and OpenTable.
  • Google also announced a new VR platform called Daydream, which will be a native part of the upcoming Android N. Google said it is working with major Android OEMs including Samsung, HTC, LG, Xiaomi, and Huawei to make Daydream-compatible smartphones with 4K screens. Daydream is effectively a much-more-advanced Cardboard platform, allowing Android handset manufacturers to create comfortable headsets that compete with Samsung’s Gear VR (a partnership with Facebook’s Oculus). Daydream compatible phones and headsets will then have access to shared VR content and a remote control-like input device designed by Google.
  • Among the developer tools that Google announced today, Firebase 2.0 stands out as a great tool for brands to create and test their apps. It allows simultaneous development for Android and iOS and includes advanced analytics, secure storage, and targeted notifications. Its main competitor is Microsoft’s Xamarin, another cross-platform mobile development toolset.

What Brands Need To Do
Google Instant Apps gives users the power of native apps with instant loading and without the usual commitment of download time and storage space. The feature works with 95% of Android phones — back to Jelly Bean — and can help brands by overcoming the initial app installation hurdle and dramatically reducing payment friction; however, users might not fully install an app and keep the app icon on their home screen as a reminder to come back later. Also, links from messaging, social media, or elsewhere could lead to a native app experience on Android, instead of just a website. Because Google Instant Apps works with Android Pay, it supports frictionless payments and checkouts that will help retailers boost conversions. Brands could use Instant Apps in many ways. An auto brand could use this feature to drive potential buyers to a build-your-own feature that works better natively than as a website, and an entertainment brand could leverage this feature to reach more users with their in-app content. Therefore, brands need to work with developers to break their branded apps into appropriate modules to enable this feature. Look for ways to convert Instant Apps users into habitual app users.

With Google Assistant and Google Home, Google is trying to catch up to the success of Amazon’s Alexa and Echo by leveraging Android, their industry-leading machine learning expertise, and strong developer ecosystem. While we are skeptical that Google’s new messaging app Allo will ever have a meaningful audience for marketers, it might be a great way to test integrations with Google Assistant before it rolls out to other platforms (if Google opens the API soon as expected). For brands, this is another push toward a meaningful presence on conversational media channels and to optimize their content and partnerships. There are new rules of SEO in conversation that are much closer to winner-take-all, because unlike Google Search there’s no second page of results and there’s often only one recommendation per request. Not every brand is a good fit for this ecosystem but there are lots of opportunities. For example, travel brand may integrate their service with Google Assistant to enable personalized recommendations, booking reservations, or checking itineraries. On messaging services like Allo, those services could extend to integrations with all participants’ calendars.

Google Home is an Amazon Echo competitor

Daydream, the new VR platform built into Android N, will offer brands a new channel for immersive content that approaches the reach of all Android users like Cardboard but with more power and headsets comfortable enough to use for more than a few minutes. As the audience for VR content continues to grow, brands can follow the good examples set by early adopters like Marriott Hotels and JCPenney and start developing branded VR content. Google also mentioned it is partnering with a number of media companies including The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and USA Today to create VR apps for Daydream, and users will also be able to watch content from YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Major League Baseball. So brands can also team up with one of those media partners to create or sponsor VR content.

Firebase 2.0 is a great toolset for brands developing their own apps. Production cost is kept low by developing once and then Firebase does the work of making the app work on Android, iOS, and even the web. Other features particularly appealing for brands include an integrated social referral system to easily convert your most loyal users into advocates, automatic App Indexing so that in-app content is shown in Google Search, customizable and segmentable push notifications, and powerful analytics that even syncs with AdWords campaigns to aid in customer acquisition and lifetime value analysis. All of these features are free with paid add-ons for hosting and database storage.

Market Impact
Google’s announcements this year are mostly about playing catch-up with its competitors. While the new products and features enrich the Android ecosystem, they will not necessarily pull users away from iOS. Google Home, however, will put pressure on Amazon, particularly with Home’s ability to push content to TV screens. Whether or not consumers will be more willing to trust Google or Amazon to keep an open ear inside their homes remains to be seen. Google Assistant gives Facebook’s M a significant threat and the competition should make both better, faster. We don’t expect Android Wear to catch on based on the 2.0 updates but Firebase 2.0 is a real threat to Microsoft’s Xamarin with a full suite of tools and an active community.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in developing text-based Messenger bots, voice-based apps as Alexa skills, and VR content. We can help our clients assess market trends and figure out how to apply emerging media technologies in marketing strategy. Please contact Client Services Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) if you would like more detail or to schedule a visit to the Lab to discuss how Google-powered and other solutions can help you better reach and serve your customers.

For previous editions of Fast Forward, please visit ipglabstg.wpengine.com. Please send any constructive criticism or feedback. We want these to be as useful as possible for you and your clients, and your input will help us immensely.


Pictures featured here are promotional images courtesy of Google.