Today Google announced a number of updates and improvements to help make third party apps for Google Assistant more functional and easier for users to discover. It’s also adding new capabilities for developers.
Developers can now build Assistant apps in Spanish, Portuguese and Indian English. For the UK, Google announced the availability of transactional capabilities (purchases, reservations or appointments). For the app directory, Google is adding new sections (what’s new and what’s trending). And there will now be an autocomplete feature to help suggest apps to users.
Right now the app directory is relatively hidden and I suspect only a tiny percentage of users know it exists. However, within the directory Google is also creating new subcategories for apps that are more task-specific. The company uses the example of “Order Food” or “View a Menu” in the category “Food & Drink.” There will also be new badges for family friendly apps.
Google is also trying to facilitate more natural app discovery — and this is probably going to be more common than other methods — through “implicit invocation” or “implicit discovery.” This is a form of app recommendations, when Google believes that a specific app can answer a user question or fulfill a need, or when the user’s verbal command is the “action phrase” for the Assistant app itself:
Implicit invocation occurs when users invoke your app without using its name. This type of invocation occurs when users tell the Google Assistant to do something that’s similar to the action invocation phrase for one of your configured intents, or when the user is in a context where your app would be appropriate.
There’s a very SEO-like (“voice optimization”) approach to getting your app recognized and invoked by Google in this “implicit” scenario.
Most compelling of these new features is the introduction of what Google calls “multi-surface conversations.” This is essentially Google Home send to phone.
An interaction begins on a Google Home device and is then sent to a smartphone for completion. The example Google provides is food ordering that begins on Google Home, with the payment transaction concluding on a smartphone. For relatively obvious reasons, this could be a boon to travel and e-commerce transactions on Google Home.
Google is also enabling personalization (preferences), daily updates, notifications and directory analytics.
Integrating third party capabilities into the Google Assistant has the potential to be extremely useful. Apple’s Siri is doing this and, obviously, so is Amazon Alexa with “skills” (most of which are currently worthless). But the problem of “app discovery” is even more acute in the voice context than it is in smartphone app stores.
This is why “implicit discovery” holds so much promise. But Google can also do a great deal more to surface developer apps and content within the Google Assistant and online.