Google just released Google Now for iOS through an update to the Google Search app for iOS. Google maintains that the service is exactly the same as Google Now on Android, though certain flourishes like swiping upward to launch the application sadly cannot carry over to Apple’s closed iOS ecosystem.
In other words, Google Now pulls in information from all of Google’s services. So even if you’re an iPhone user, chances are you have a Gmail account, a Chrome account, a Google calendar account, etc. Google Now for iOS isn’t built into the OS the same way Siri is, but because users will already have various Google accounts, the service maintains almost all the same functionality as Google Now for Android.
There are, however, a few Google Now cards that aren’t available on iOS, including Boarding Pass, Activity Summary, Events, Zillow, Fandango, Concerts, and Nearby Events.
“The history of Search can put Google Now in the best context,” said Baris Gultekin, Director of Product Management at Google. “It’s gone from serving links to being able to serve up links, and images, and videos, and deliver a rich experience. And then we wanted to answer natural questions, both in text and in spoken word. So to us, Google Now is the next step. It is answering the question before you ever ask it.”
Google Now is a service that has been baked into Android ever since Google introduced Jelly Bean in June of 2012. It pulls information from all of your Google services, like Search, Gmail, Calendar, Maps, Chrome browser history, and anything else that is connected to your Google account, to provide pertinent information before the smartphone owner knows they need it.
So how does this work?
Well, once Google Now learns where you work, live, what you’re interested in, and what you’re searching for, it can help you with things like remembering meetings, dressing for the weather, and even keep you punctual.
Google Now knows when there’s a disruption to your train’s service or a pile-up on the highway you take to work, and tells you to leave a bit earlier that day.
If you’re traveling, Google Now helps you find things to do nearby and provides translation to keep you in the loop. As Gultekin put it so eloquently, “during travel is when our users need us most, and we want to give them the best experience possible when traveling.”
There are a whole host of “cards” that integrate with all of Google’s services to provide the most complete and detailed information to get through your day, tailored entirely to your little world.
In many ways, Google Now is an answer to Apple’s Siri along with the handful of apps that are working to offer a digital assistant-type service. Though voice navigation isn’t really part of the Google Now equation the same way it’s present in Siri, the end goals are still the same: to give you the information you need as quickly and naturally as possible.
Launching the product on iOS makes sense considering that Google tries to spread all its services across multiple platforms, rather than offering a closed Android experience for Googlers. After all, not all Gmail users own an Android phone, right?
To use and enjoy Google Now for iOS, simply head to the App Store and download/update the Google Search app.
Visit link: Google Now Launches On iOS
A new job description spotted by 9to5Mac’s Jordan Kahn this morning suggests Apple wants to do something with Siri that makes the digital personal assistant a more fleshed out, relatable character. The posting is seeking someone with creative skills to help “evolve and enrich Siri.” While Apple says that “Siri’s known for ‘her’ wit, cultural knowledge and zeal to explain things in engaging, funny, and practical ways,” the ad indicates they want someone to build on that with new original dialog and refinements of her existing lines.
Siri is still an experimental endeavor on Apple’s part in many ways, and in fact the “beta” label is still attached to the service on Apple’s official product materials. A lot of attention has been paid by Apple to improving Siri with new feature additions and search capabilities, but the software’s “personality” is perhaps equally important to its chances of long-term success. In fact, as competing services both from Google and startups like Maluuba evolve, Siri’s ability to impress audiences with something resembling human character traits might actually be the one key element that separates it from the crowd.
The Siri job description isn’t looking for anything too crazy in terms of qualification, but it does want a double-threat in terms of finding someone who is both comfortable and proficient in written English and character-driven dialog, as well as familiar and comfortable with software engineers and engineering tools. Still, they might get some heavy hitters competing for this job: After all, Siri could be the next frontier in script and screenwriting. Let’s just hope Aaron Sorkin isn’t interested or Siri will never shut up and make those restaurant reservations.
See the original post here: Apple Job Posting Seeks Creative Individual To Breathe More Life Into Siri
Twelve hours was all they had. Gathered in a computer room at Facebook, college students from 17 universities around the world spent the night hacking away at an annoying problem.
There to participate in the social network’s College Hackathon, these students were finalists from smaller regional events that took place throughout the year. Each team received a trip to Silicon Valley to compete and see who could turn their ideas into reality. In the end, the University of Waterloo prevailed and took home $2,000, a trophy, and bragging rights.
What separated the University of Waterloo from all the rest? It was their production of an application prototype they called Quin. It’s the social vertical of Siri, where anyone could ask it questions about their social presence on Facebook.
Imagine being able to ask Quin which of your friends were single, or graduated from a particular school, or were friends with a certain individual, or indicated they would be attending an event — Quin could help you with that. It leverages speech to text functionality and can be a very powerful mobile search tool.
We spoke with the team after the competition and they seemed unsure as to whether they would continue to develop Quin moving forward. But the code they used is open source so that could clearly leave the door open for someone else to take on the task.
Just as Siri is the virtual personal assistant for many of us, it’s not that farfetched to believe that should this come to market, Quin could function in a similar capacity, allowing people to update their social status, comment on a photo, do text-to-speech type conversations with Facebook Messenger, and much more.
The creation of a social media version of Siri is interesting because earlier this week, SRI’s Norman Winarsky told the media that with the creation of Siri, it was probably only a matter of time before it would be applied to different verticals — in this case, it looks like college students beat SRI and Apple to the punch.
Before the winner could be announced, judges needed to review all the different hacks that the 18 teams created. Why were there 18 teams when 17 schools were represented? Cornell University fielded two teams in the competition.
Evaluating the demos during the prototype forum were members of Facebook’s development team, including Paul Tarjan, a software engineer, Mike Schroepfer, VP Engineering, and Kate Aronowitz, the director of design and UEX.
Schools that were represented include Cornell, Duke, students from Brazil, Princeton, the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, UCLA, University of Pennsylvania, University of California-San Diego, University of California-Berkeley, University of British Columbia, students from Kiev, University of Wisconsin, MIT, University of Waterloo, Carnegie Mellon, and Harvard.
While each team created very interesting hacks, there were some that we felt stood out the most.
Over the past few years, the social network has organized these type of hackathons to help raise its publicity among students and to give something back to aspiring engineers, developers, and designers. These events are a core part of Facebook’s culture — the goal is to build something that solves a problem. At no point in time are hackers instructed to come up with a business plan or find a way to monetize their idea. The company is interested in seeing how ideas form and convert into reality.
With the College Hackathon this year, colleges that are sources of interns and potential new employees for Facebook held regional hackathons. Anyone who was a student could participate and the winners of each of the events was invited to the company’s Menlo Park headquarters.
Last year, the team from Princeton won the competition and subsequently received internships with the company. The same thing happened in 2010, but with a different school. Don’t be mistaken, the internships are not prizes of the hackathon, nor are they guaranteed, but is there any better way to prove your skills at the world’s largest social network?
The hackathon season begins again next year. In the meantime, you can check out all the hacks from all the competitions here.
Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo of Paul Tarjan, Facebook software engineer; Mike Schroepfer, VP Engineering, Mike Shaver, director of engineering, Kate Aronowitz, director of design and UEX, and the University of Waterloo hackathon team via Richard Zadorozny, Facebook
Kngine (pronounced kin-gin, short for knowledge engine) is one of those startups with a goal that’s both straightforward and impressively ambitious — it wants to build an app that can answer any question. In fact, when you open the app, it prompts you to “ask me anything.”
When I watched the promotional video (embedded below), the first thing I thought of was Apple’s Siri. And while Kngine co-founder and CEO Haytham ElFadeel doesn’t shy away from the Siri comparison, he also said Kngine has a slightly different goal. One of Siri’s big selling points is allowing you to access a lot of the iPhone’s functions through voice, so when your questions are more fact-based rather than task-based (i.e. Kngine’s strong point) it relies on Wolfram Alpha.
I haven’t had a chance to give Kngine a thorough test, but when I tried the app out, it was able to answer all of my random questions accurately. (Naturally, I started with “What is TechCrunch?”) ElFadeel also said the company hired an independent consultant to compare Kngine to Siri and Evi in a test based on the NIST guidelines, basically by asking a bunch of different questions. The current version of Kngine answered 54 percent of the test questions (either by delivering the correct answer that showed an understanding of the question, delivering a partial answer, or delivering the correct answer despite misunderstanding the question), compared to 26 percent for Siri and 25 percent for Evi. Among the questions that Kngine could answer but its competitors couldn’t: What band is Fred Durst in? What is the periodicity of Halley’s comet? Who founded the AARP?
Version 2.0 of Kngine, which has yet to be released to the public, did even better, answering 71 percent of the questions.
Behind the scenes, Kngine is constantly crawling the web, not to index pages like Google, but rather to extract knowledge and meaning. ElFadeel compared the technology to Wolfram Alpha, but he said Kngine gathers its data in a much more automated way.
Kngine is based in Cairo, but ElFadeel has moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and is building out a business development team here. The company has raised $275,000 in funding from investors, including Sawari Ventures. The company first launched a prototype in 2010, but it didn’t release a real consumer app until this year.
For now, it’s more focused on acquiring users than making money, but ElFadeel said monetization possibilities include running advertising in the app and also licensing the technology to other companies, say enterprise search products that want a natural language interface.
Dexetra, the company behind the Siri-like Android app Iris and the activity-tracking app Friday, is merging the two apps to work together more seamlessly on Android devices. Giving Siri a run for its money, Iris users can now search the data archive generated by the Friday app, following the recent updates to these mobile applications rolled out over the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S.
For those unfamiliar, Iris is one of many “personal assistant” type applications for Android – a space that has exploded since the launch of Apple’s Siri. Using voice control, Iris lets you perform common tasks like setting reminders, sending texts, playing music, asking about movie reviews and more. It can also serve up answers to other questions via its ChaCha integration. (Which caused a bit of controversy in the past, we should note.)
Meanwhile, the Friday application, launched earlier this year, is like the flip side to Iris. Where one might talk to Iris about future events (is there a sushi restaurant nearby? what movies are playing?), you can ask Friday about things that have already happened. The app records a history of your communications, including calls, texts, emails, and photos, as well as changes in the phone’s status and activity taking place on third-party services like Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter. That means you can ask Friday questions about things in the past, like “who called me Tuesday afternoon?” or “where was I when I last spoke to Jim?” for example.
However, until now, the two apps were standalone entities. If you wanted to look back in time, you used Friday. To ask questions or talk to a virtual assistant, you needed Iris. But with the update, you no longer have to think about which app contains the information you need. Friday can simply run in the background creating the personal journal of your life’s activities, and you can query against it using Iris.
Dexetra CEO Narayan Babu says that since Friday’s launch in April, over 100 million documents have been created by the app, and to date, Iris’s millions of users have asked over 250 million questions.
The company is now beta testing more “applets” – the optional, context-aware mini-programs that work with Friday. For example, an applet called “Trails” lets users create a travel diary where all your activities (photos, checkins, tweets, etc.) are plotted on a map. New applets will include a battery monitor and an alternative dialer. With the battery monitor, Friday could alert a user when the phone is low on juice and there’s a charger nearby, while the dialer app would show not recent calls or favorites, but those numbers you’re most likely to call, based on previous behavior and your current context. In short, these apps make your phone aware of its surroundings and own functions in a way that hasn’t really been possible before, then tie that data together with a virtual assistant interface.
Dexetra isn’t the only company thinking about how our personal devices can help us record our life’s activities. However, a recently revealed Apple patent indicates that it might also be looking into integrating some sort of event-tracking at the OS level in the future.