The keynote speech is well on the go at Google I/O 2016, and Google has shown off Google Assistant and its Google Home device to a warm reception. One area that Google has traditionally struggled to master is messaging, with neither Hangouts nor its Messaging app quite being up to standard. In another attempt to get it right, Google has just announced a brand new messaging app called ‘Allo’ (pronounced Aloe) that leverages machine learning (AI) to generate smart replies. We have more details after the break.
— Google (@google) May 18, 2016
Allo will be available for both Android and iOS later this summer, and one of its main features is that it uses Google’s processing power to generate answers to questions asked in the conversation, and also conduct a conversation with the user to some extent. Think of it as a messaging app with improved Google Now capabilities. Using Google’s Knowledge Graph, the app can answer contextual questions and even guess the name of a movie described by a selection of emoji.
When you receive a message, Allo will generate some smart replies, much like what has been seen with Google’s Inbox app. If you check out the image above, an image of a dog has been sent, and Allo is not only able to suggest a couple of generic replies, but it’s even able to determine what type of dog is in the picture. Another example of its smartness is if you have a conversation about where to dine, and decide to eat at the little Italian place on the corner, you’ll be able to make a booking through OpenTable directly from the Allo app thanks to the integration of Google Assistant. As time goes by, Allo also learns from your replies, making it more in tune with your probable replies.
How it works is that you sign up with your mobile number, much like WhatsApp. And that’s basically it although you can choose to connect your Google account to it as well. Once signed up, it looks just like a messaging app should.
So, what can you do with Allo? Well, when you send pictures you can also doodle on them, and there’s a feature that Google calls ‘WhisperShout’ where you can change the size of the font of a message by moving your fingertip up or down on the button. As with all most messaging apps, Allo features a good choice of emojis and stickers to brighten up your conversation or to send why you just can’t be bothered typing a response. And if even that is too much effort, you can always just send one of the suggested replies.
By now, you may be a little worried about your privacy. It may make you feel a little less spied upon to learn that Google has built-in an Incognito mode, that means all messages are encrypted end-to-end, and will not be able to be read by Google’s servers. Incognito mode will also allow you to hide sender and recipient details, as well deleting messages after a certain time period.
That’s Google’s Allo messaging app, and while it’s not clear why Google feels the need for five separate messaging apps (Hangouts, Messaging, Allo, Spaces, and its new video messaging app called Duo), Allo is an interesting solution. Is it enough to make users turn away from iMessage and WhatsApp? Only time will tell.
What’s your take on Allo? Don’t forget, you can check out the rest of our Google I/O 2016 coverage right here.