Sometimes, it's the little changes to language that give away a company's ambition. At the unveiling of Google's new Pixel phones yesterday, CEO Sundar Pichai started the event not by talking about what users can get from Google, but what they can get from their Google. Using artificial intelligence and its new digital assistant, said Pichai, Google's computing power will be available in every facet of users' lives. It'll be seamless and pervasive. "Our goal," he said, "is to build a personal Google for each and every user."
Not long ago, a startup founder in San Francisco was trying to organise a meeting with someone visiting from Europe, and setting a time required dozens of e-mails back and forth. The European arrived with a bottle of wine for the founder's personal assistant, Clara, as a gesture of thanks for putting up with the scheduling hassle. But the assistant could not accept the gift. Clara is a software service from a startup of the same name that helps schedule meetings via e-mail. It is powered by artificial intelligence (AI), with some human supervision.
Mike Chen was working on a health care start-up, he and his colleagues had one of those light bulb moments regarding digital assistance. "There should be something where you can just text it, and it just, like, does it for you," he said. Three years later, his remote personal-assistant company, Magic, has employees in the United States and the Philippines. Its promise is bold: to do "anything" for customers who send requests over text or email, Mr. Chen said, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Fin, another new virtual personal-assistant company, is the brainchild of Sam Lessin and Andrew Kortina, a founder of the popular mobile payment service Venmo.
Google kicked off its big I/O developer conference on Wednesday by unveiling a new voice-powered digital assistant along with plans to use that assistant to power a hardware device similar to Amazon's Echo. While the tool and hardware device look promising, some watching the event couldn't help but question why the assistant lacks some memorable name. And Google has... Google Assistant and Google Home? But there's an argument that not having a proper name may be a strength, not a weakness, of Google's new products for two key reasons. Incredibly odd how Google refuses to name its AI system.