Pondering on Google I/O

I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that Google announced at I/O this week. I feel like I’m stuck in a weird camp of being both fascinated and terrified all at once.

The rate at which Google Assistant is developing is astounding and the idea that they are working towards the computer from Star Trek is really quite cool. They are clearly getting there quite quickly. The video demos of Duplex making a call on your behalf to make a hair appointment or book a restaurant is frankly amazing. If those video’s are true (why didn’t they do a live demo?) then they’ve created a computer that can pass the Turing Test and fool a human into thinking they are talking to another human. This is one of the things that terrifies me.

I’ve long been uncomfortable with the amount of information Google can gather on people. Now they are showing how a lot of that data has been used to understand how humans communicate in the way they are building Duplex and demonstrating it’s ability to mimic that. Likewise with the new autocomplete in Gmail that they demonstrated, these things are impressive, as is the potential utility of them.

My struggle is that I hate the idea of all this data being collected on people, mostly without them realising, but at the same time I find that I want to use the new products that Google are creating with it all. I hate having to make phone calls to people I don’t know and the idea that I could just ask a computer to do it for me is great, but, it scares me. Just because we can do that begs the question should we be doing it? When humans are speaking in this manner, there’s an inherent level of trust that is built. It’s a verbal contract between two people, with a commitment from both to fulfil it. If a computer takes over this element on behalf of one of the parties, do we erode that trust? How far do we let these communications go? If we are not responsible for making appointments and bookings, do they start to become disposable? Will we become less inclined to keep them, and how will this impact small businesses?

Santa Tracker ›

Lovely site and good bit of fun for all those young at heart Santa fans! Google have their bad points, but they do some fun things and they do them well.

Google finds its design voice on iOS ›

Fascinating look at the way Google are developing the design language for their iOS apps. I have to say I’ve been impressed recently, the new search app and the new maps app are now residents on the home screen of my iPhone 4. Of course it probably helps that they provide me with some features that Apple have held back from the iPhone 4, mainly Siri and turn by turn navigation.

One month with Android ›

Ryan Heise has been using Android over his iPhone for the last month or so. His conclusion:

Google wants to reinvent the wheel that Apple created with iOS, but it’s a wheel that they’re better off to copy all the way, rather than make a facsimile and take out a few big chunks.

There’s a few interesting points in this article that seem to confirm one thing. Apple thinks about how to make something and polish the crap out of it. Google thinks about how to make something quickly and then move on to the next thing.

(Via Shawn Blanc.)