It’s been a few months since we last heard about Google’s plans to build a rival to Apple’s Siri digital assistant but the project, it seems, is still alive and well. The last wave of information came back in December, when development was reportedly under the wing of Google’s secretive X Lab; back then, the project was known under its codename, ‘Majel’ – a tip of the hat to Majel Barrett Roddenberry, wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and voice of Starfleet’s LCARS computer network in the show.
According to TechCrunch, the project is no longer under Google X stewardship, and has dropped its codename in favour of a new moniker: Google Assistant. Now under the management of the Android development team, the aim is not merely to duplicate what Siri can do for Google, but to go much further than Siri, both in terms of breadth of ability, and how developers can use the technology too.
Development of Assistant is reportedly happening in three phases; the first is to ‘get the world’s knowledge into a format a computer can understand’, and it’s probably fair to say that this isn’t an overnight job. Once that leviathan task is complete, the next step is to devise ways to personalise content and how people interact with it; Google+ and Google+1 are said to be a key component in understanding how users discover and consume content.
The third stage is to build the Assistant itself, creating a “do engine” that is focused on completing specific tasks rather than presenting a range of options (or search results) that only get you one step closer to completing your goal.
Google also plans to go further than Apple, by opening up Assistant (to some degree at least) to the developer community, so that the technology can be integrated into third-party products. Siri, on the other hand, currently works only with a curated set of applications and functions chosen by Apple, although that may change by the time Google’s Assistant arrives.
Google is said to be focusing heavily on Assistant development, and is believed to be planning a launch before the end of the year.