Earlier today, Google unveiled the Assistant SDK (software development kit), which means developers and engineers can integrate the voice-enabled AI into virtually any hardware of their choosing.
Watch the announcement video here:
After teasing this release last year with its launch of the Pixel smartphone, Google Assistant is officially a developer platform. Whereas Assistant could only help users with vocal commands related to Google properties, such as Search or Photos, it can now accept and execute custom commands programmed by developers.
As an example, Google posted another video with the announcement, showing how Assistant can be used to control a DIY home bar for mixing mocktails (or cocktails for the adults).
A user could feasibly order a Tom Collins to relax in the summer heat once a clever developer codes out the recipe and protocols necessary to automate the pouring.
An Open Sandbox
While automated beverage-pouring makes for a fun application, Assistant's opening speaks to much greater potential. The Internet of Things (IoT) will become decidedly more exciting and accessible.
Google recently announced that the AI could distinguish between up to six unique voices, each with its own relevant user data, such as location, nickname, payment info, Netflix and Spotify accounts. Developers could create settings wherein specific users get specific results, to the effect of pulling pranks or customizing outcomes (like Assistant knowing your favorite drink by mechanical heart).
With enough tinkering on Google's part, Assistant will likely find a home in the Waymo division and use the open experimentation as a guide for how to maximize voice's potential couched in self-driving.
Waymo recently started letting the public test its vehicles in Phoenix, AZ, so it won't be surprising if the division announced voice integration by the end of the year.
No Need for an Inside Voice
Similar to the opportunity Amazon Lex's open environment provides, Google Assistant could be applied to more than homemade or consumer devices; it could become an engine for innovation in IoT and manufacturing.
Google has already enabled developers to connect their hardware and devices by way of Android Things, which the company expects will empower developers to leverage the rich Android ecosystem and will ideally universalize the IoT environment under its little green robot banner.
It's unclear how compatible Android Things and Assistant are at the moment, but it should be expected that Google will start building linkages between the two systems, which would allow users to command a device through another.
Put simply, a person could verbally "hit" the snooze button on the alarm clock and order the coffee maker to start brewing a pot while that person catches a few more minutes of sleep, all from the comfort of one's bed.
That's merely a drop of convenience made viable by a verbally connected IoT ecosystem.
As well, Google Assistant could deployed to larger hardware - think assembly line machinery. The automated factories of tomorrow could be operated purely by voice, in person or even through a smartphone.
The connected factory could operate at a more efficient level, requiring fewer degrees of commands to perform functions. Instead of a line manager yelling for a halt to production and relying on a technician hearing the order and reacting quickly enough to perform the mechanical steps necessary, that line manager could simply call for the stoppage and receive it faster than ever before.
Over time, developers could create more and more custom commands and solutions to suit specific industries and factories, yielding more productive outcomes for manufacturers and generating a new platform for industrial apps.
How Google Benefits
For every device that uses Google Assistant, the search giant learns how people interact with devices by voice and can better train its AI to operate more effectively and personally for the users.
A better voice AI means more people will be drawn to use Assistant, leveraging network effects, and Google can start building new AI products centered around voice and, potentially, new data inputs.
As well, Google could find new opportunities for monetization through Assistant, using recommendations to drive ad delivery and consumption and possibly app or e-commerce purchases.
Enterprising developers should seize this opportunity to integrate Google Assistant with their hardware and devices ideas. First movers will have an opportunity to define the space in tandem with Google and will probably be able to negotiate lucrative terms before the company has a chance to sort out how it can fully control the new environment.