Google has launched a so-called smart messaging application named Allo that features its new Google Assistant. With the aid of artificial intelligence, the app will learn how users speak and eventually generate automatic replies for them based on their previous conversations, the Alphabet unit said Wednesday at its Google I/O 2016 developers conference in Mountain View, California.
Pronounced “Aloe,” the product is Google’s latest attempt to gain a foothold in the huge messaging app market, where it has so far failed to make an impact against market leaders WhatsApp, Snapchat and Facebook’s Messenger.
Allo will be based on users’ phone numbers rather than their Google accounts (although users will be able to connect that way in the event they desire to do so). It includes all the features expected in a messaging app, including customer stickers that Google commissioned specifically for Allo.
There is also Whisper Shout, a feature that allows users to scale the size of their responses depending on how loud they want them to be. Users can also add doodles to photographs using a feature called Ink.
However, it is Allo’s integration of Google Assistant that is the most interesting aspect of the new app.
Allo’s key selling point appears to be that it is leveraging Google’s huge investment in machine learning to put Google Assistant (the new name for Google Now) directly into the app. As is the case with Google’s Inbox email app, users will be presented with instant replies to messages, which are contextually generated based on what they are talking about. Google Engineering Director Erik Kay said the replies will evolve over time as the app learns how to speak.
The app will also allow users to tap directly into Google search results, enabling them to find restaurants and book tables without having to switch to any other apps. Users will also be able to search directly for videos, images or animations through the app.
In addition, Allo users will be able to chat directly with a Google chatbot in a conversational mode, seeking answers to questions about anything they want. The product even has a games feature.
Google has also created an incognito mode for Allo, like the feature now available in the Chrome browser. In this mode, messages will be end-to-end encrypted — similar to the approach taken by WhatsApp — which allows users to create Snapchatlike expiring messages. In addition, users will have the option of deleting their entire incognito chat logs forever.
Alongside Allo, Google introduced a one-to-one video calling app called Duo, which is end-to-end encrypted and which Google indicated will be able to work well even when a connection is not great. One of the key features of the app is called Knock, Knock, which shows a live preview of the video before a user picks up a call.
Allo and Duo will be available for free on Android and iOS devices this summer.