While Google Home understandably received the most attention from the Google I/O day one keynote, the search giant also revealed a stunning array of other products and services it will deliver throughout 2016. Two of the biggest are Allo and Duo, two new mobile solutions for Android and iOS.
Powered by the Google Assistant technologies that are also at the heart of Google Home, Allo is yet another messaging app. But I think Google is creating a new app so that it can ship it cross-platform (to iOS) as well; if it had just added these capabilities to its existing Messaging app, only Android users would benefit.
Regardless, Allo actually looks interesting and it takes a Google Inbox-like approach to rethinking messaging.
“Because the assistant understands your world, you can ask for things like your agenda for the day or photos from your last trip,” Google says. “If you’re planning a dinner with friends, you can ask the assistant to suggest restaurants nearby, all in one thread.”
That sounds like the bots Microsoft is adding to Skype, right? Nope. Allo differs in a very important way from bots, and this is why I think Google is onto something: With Allo, you don’t need to explicitly add bots to your contacts list or explicitly start a conversation with said bots in order to use them. Instead, the Google Assistant pops up as needed, in any conversation.
Consider the following screenshot.
Here, someone named Emily is having a typical messaging-type conversation with another person. When the prospect of eating at a restaurant comes up in the conversation, Google Assistant appears and recommends some highly-rated local choices. That’s smart. And it’s a lot like the predictive technologies (Clippy, for example) that Microsoft pioneered years ago but also botched pretty badly. The reason they work better here, I think, is that Google is working with machine learning and an entire Internet’s worth of information on the back-end. It’s not all local intelligence.
Allo also includes other interesting innovations, including one called Smart Reply that is indeed lifted straight from Google Inbox. With Smart Reply, Allo presents intelligent responses to what the other person has typed (or, via a photo, shown you). I use this in Inbox all the time, and it saves a lot of typing, which is especially important on mobile.
Allo also includes an Incognito feature, just like Google Chrome, that provides end-to-end encryption, discreet notifications, and message expiration. When you delete Incognito conversations, they’re really deleted, forever. Takes that, Snapchat.
Duo is a coming video calling app that obviously mirrors Skype Video in Windows 10/Mobile (though Microsoft is now working to remove that app from the OS, go figure). That is, it is a companion app to Allo that focuses on video instead of text chat.
Duo is based on your phone number, so it travels with you, and Google says it will work great on slow and unreliable Internet connections, so we’ll have to see how that pans out. It’s currently unclear how Duo differs from Google Hangouts, as well.
Duo includes a feature called Knock Knock (yes, really) that displays a live video preview of an incoming call so you can better determine whether you want to connect the call. If you do answer, the call seamlessly transitions from the preview.
“Duo calls are in crisp HD video (up to 720p) and audio,” Google explains. “We seamlessly transition calls between cellular and Wi-Fi, so you don’t need to worry about what network you’re on. Finally, we built Duo with privacy and security in mind and all calls on Duo are end-to-end encrypted.”
Allo and Duo will ship in Android and iOS sometime this summer, Google says. You can learn a lot more about these apps from the Official Google Blog.