This week, Google is holding its annual I/O developer event, where the tech giant showcases its latest developments, and previews coming features. And on day one, they've already shared some pretty impressive new options - here's an overview of all the major announcements from I/O thus far, from a digital marketing perspective.
Pinterest recently launched their innovative Lens tool which enables users to search Pins based on images taken with their phone - scan a pair of shoes, for example, and Pinterest's image recognition tech will show you similar products based on that reference point.
Google will soon release something similar, though Google's Lens is a little more complex, and has a lot more capacity for utility and innovation.
As you can see from this example, Google's Lens will be able to use image recognition, in integration with Google Assistant and AR, to identify content and overlay that with relevant information. Facebook recently previewed similar through their advanced AR tools, though they're not at the level Google appears to be, and they don't have the vast search resources that Google does, which could make Google's option more useful.
Among the various use cases for Google Lens, you'll be able to see a restaurant's rating when scanning the storefront, you'll be able to get information about animals or plants you see, direct from Google, and you'll be able to listen to music from a band simply by pointing Lens at a concert poster.
And there's also this:
Point the camera at a Wi-Fi router, scan the network, and connect.
AR enabled tools offer huge potential, and all the major networks are looking at real-world/AR integrations like this to add additional functionality and utility to their apps. Just last week, China's biggest social app WeChat showcased some of their coming AR functions, which actually look very similar to Google's Lens functionality.
Where Google may be able to win out is through their vast range of discovery data and tools - Google's already the platform you rely on for such information, the name users trust in search.
If nothing else, what is clear is that AR will change the face of digital marketing - it's worth considering how such tools could influence your target markets as usage behaviors evolve.
Google Assistant on iPhone
Further expanding on their virtual assistant tools - which are already fast becoming a key consideration for SEO purposes - Google has announced that their Google Assistant tool will soon be made available on iOS, in addition to Android devices.
Google Assistant is already built into Google's Allo messaging app (which is also available on iOS) and enables users to conduct Google searches in message streams, helping to plan meet-ups and access relevant information in context.
The expanded availability of Google Assistant should get more people using the tool, giving them immediate access to Google search - though it may not be the most intuitive addition on iOS, given various search options already exist.
Where Google Assistant would appear to add the most value is in message streams, like it does within Google Allo, which is not exactly how it's set to work in this new form (though you will be able to address it by voice). That said, it's a powerful search tool, and could see wider adoption. Worth noting usage trends.
Google also noted that Google Assistant is already available on over 100 million Android devices.
Called 'Smart Reply', the option has seen significant increase in usage since launch, now accounting for around 12% of all Inbox replies via mobile device.
As you can see here, Smart Reply scans the text of your emails then provides suggested responses, which you can action in one tap. It can't suggest replies for all your emails, only those it can provide 'optimal responses' for, but it can save you time when replying on the go.
Smart Reply is being rolled out to all English Gmail users from today.
New Photo Tools
Google Photos, which now has 500 million users, is also getting a few upgrades, with suggested sharing, which will recommend connections to share your images with based on your interaction history and who's in each photo (similar to Facebook's image recognition within Moments and via tag recommendations), and an automated sharing function, which enables you to grant other people access to your pictures.
Google's also going to start selling photo books - physical hardcopy collections of your chosen images.
As explained by The Verge:
"You can make one on your phone or on the web, starting at $10 for a softcover 7-inch square book and $20 for a 9-inch hardcover book. In both cases, that cost covers only the first 20 pages - which isn't a ton of photos, particularly if you've just taken a big vacation. Each additional page is $0.35 to $0.65, and it adds up in a hurry: a sample book I made about a vacation to Italy wound up costing me $55, which is probably at least $50 more than it cost Google to make."
Google's working on a new way to automatically remove unwanted elements from photos, Photoshop style - sort of similar to Snapchat's recently added 'Magic Eraser' but more advanced. There's no word as to when this new option will be rolled out as yet.
Stand Alone VR
While VR is still a way off seeing wide adoption, Google's also developing advanced VR tools, including a standalone VR headset that doesn't require any additional systems.
One of the biggest impediments to VR adoption, of course, is price, which this won't necessarily solve, but it does provide another option for VR usage, and hints at a future where VR will be a more compact, self-contained offering.
YouTube 360 Videos on TV Sets
And the last major announcement from the first day of Google I/O is the option to watch YouTube 360 content on your home TV screens, using your remote as the toggle to change perspective.
Given watch time of YouTube content on home TV screens has doubled in the last year, it makes sense for YouTube to be looking to being more options to their integrated TV offering, though I'm not sure 360 content is going to translate that well.
In addition - and possibly even more significant for social content creators - YouTube's also releasing its Super Chat API, which will enable live-stream creators to add in new, interactive elements.
YouTube released their Super Chat option back in January, which enables live-stream viewers to pay to have their comments featured within a stream, with a percentage of any such payments going to creators, enabling direct monetization of live-streams (note: not available to all user as yet)
As explained by BuzzFeed, the new Super Chat API, will facilitate expanded viewer actions
"...the API will let creators give fans the ability to do things like turn the lights on and off in live videos or, as demonstrated on stage at IO, launch a water balloon at them."
The capacity opens up a new range of considerations for live-streamers, which could make it a more engaging, more interactive, and a more lucrative option moving forward.
There were a range of other new tools and projects announced at Google I/O, but these are the key elements that have direct digital marketing implications in the immediate term. And this is only day one - I/O goes for another couple of days yet, though going on years past, the big announcements all come in the first 24 hours.
We'll keep you updated if any other major projects are announced.