Google has launched a brand-new messaging app – yes, another one – at today’s I/O 2016 developer conference.
The app is called Allo, and it’s poised as Google’s smartest ever messenger. It has Google Assistant built-in, but here’s the creepy bit: Google Allo can have a conversation for you. Yes, Google is replacing you with a robot.
Speaking at today's keynote, Google's engineering director Erik Kay said:
"Allo is a smart messaging app. It learns over time. Allo is based on your phone number, so you can easily get in touch with anyone in your phone book."
Watch: Highlights from Google I/O 2016
"Expression is more than just emojis and stickers," Kay continued. "Allo even offers smart replies when people send photos to you."
Let’s say your friend sends you a picture of a dog. Google’s Allo app will suggest a reply for you, based on what its AI brain thinks was in the photo. The example shown on stage suggested the "Cute dog!" reply – apparently the algorithm can accurately decide whether a dog is cute 90% of the time. So you hit the button, and it sends the robo-reply. Weird, right?
Another example was of a friend sending you an image of their pasta. Allo suggested three replies, one of which specifically mentioned "linguini" – the Google AI can work out what sort of pasta was in the picture. It’s cool, but it means that a robot can do all of your talking for you.
However, it's the Google Assistant integration that's the real selling point of Allo. Last week, Google showed off "Gboard", a smart keyboard for iOS. Everyone was confused about the fact that Gboard wasn’t released for Android – but now we know why: it’s built into Allo.
So what does that mean? Let’s say your friend sends you a message about eating out. You can use Allo to find restaurants, and even book a table, all within the app. You can then share booking details directly in your conversation. It will work for booking other things too, such as tickets for sports events or the cinema.
Allo isn’t just a clever app; it’s also a safe app. Google has built in a mode called "Incognito Chat", which activates end-to-end encryption. You can also opt for messages to "expire" after a certain amount of time, deleting the contents for all users in the conversation. Great for sensitive business conversations or, more likely, sexting. “When you delete a conversation in Allo, it’s gone forever,” says Kay.
Allo will be available to download this summer on both Android and iOS.
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What do you think of Google Allo? Let us know in the comments.