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Google’s ‘Now on Tap’ gives Android the power of context

Google has detailed a brand new feature of Android that will see the operating system’s Now digital assistant become a veritable genius.

It’s called ‘Now on Tap’ and it will be debuting with Android M, a major software update that’s due to launch later this year.

While Google Now offers information based on simple requests, Now on Tap is designed entirely around context.

“Your smartphone ought to be smarter,” explained Aparna Chennapragada, Director of Google Now, adding: “In a different context, you need different things.”

She continued: “We’re working on a new capability to assist you in the moment right when you need it wherever you are on the phone.”

It all sounds a bit fluffy at first, but Google used its annual I/O developer conference to showcase some of the impressive capabilities of Now on Tap.

Related: Best Android Apps 2015

The first example was a user listening to Skrillex. The user asks Google Now ‘what’s his real name?’, to which Google replies ‘Sonny John Moore’.

What’s clever is that Google understood the context, realising that ‘his’ referred to the music artist playing at the time.

But that’s not all it’s good for, as Chennapragada explains: “It’s not just about understanding context, it’s about bringing you answers proactively.”

The next example is a user who receives an e-mail from a friend about catching a movie.

The user taps and holds the home button – a new feature with Now on Tap – which pulls up information about ‘Tomorrowland’, the move referenced in the e-mail. Voila: context.

A message from Chennapragada’s husband draws similarly impressive results. The text asks whether she’d like to eat at a particular restaurant, and asks her not to forget the dry cleaning.

Holding the home button offers an option to create a reminder for the dry cleaning. What’s more, it also pulls up a restaurant card containing review info, navigation, and booking options.

That’s some epic natural language understanding going on here,” says Chennapragada.

The final example given is a Chrome article about Hugh Laurie moving to Veep, a US TV show.

When Chennapragada taps on the image of Laurie at the top of the article, information about the actor immediately pops up on the screen. Movies and TV shows he’s been in, a Wikipedia bio, the works.

“The key is understanding the context of the moment,” she summarises.

Now on Tap will also be available to use for developers who want to integrate the functionality within their apps.

Unfortunately, this is just a taster, and we’ll have to wait for more details coming over ‘the next few months’. Boo!

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