Back in the days of Android Jelly Bean, Google focused much of its AI efforts on a feature called Google Now. The idea was Google Now could scrape useful data from your account activity and proactively give you helpful alerts and actionable notifications. Google phased out Now as a brand a while back, and the revamped Feed doesn’t include the same predictive features. Now, some of them are coming back in the Google Assistant. It’s not quite Google Now, but it could still be useful.
The myriad of Google services and branding changes can make your head spin, but we’re really just talking about two current products. The Google Feed is the news-focused card UI that replaced Google Now. You’ll find that to the left of your main home screen on certain Android phones, as well as in the Google app. Assistant is the AI you can call up with a long-press of the home button, and is also what powers Google Home devices. Some old features from Google Now are moving from a semi-hidden menu in Feed to Assistant, where they’ll get a fresh coat of paint.
The new proactive search features of Assistant are accessible with a button tap after you call it up on your phone (the button looks like a small inbox). Assistant uses contextual information from your email, calendar, and location to tell you about your day. For example, if you have a meeting on your calendar, Assistant might tell you when you need to leave based on where you’re going and how traffic is moving. If there are bill notices in your email, Assistant might remind you to pay up before the deadline.
Google promises to add new predictive features over time as well. That apparently includes an overview of notes from apps like Keep and nearby activities you might be interested in. Google also says it will add parking location reminders to Assistant, which was one of my favorite features of Google Now. It would just remember where you parked without any input from you.
The new features are rolling out slowly to all users, so you don’t need to do anything. There’s actually been a small test running for about a month, so you might already have the new features. The only indication of the update will be the appearance of that new button on Android. For iOS users, the Google app will automatically show predictive cards when you open the app.
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