Google Now is already the envy of every iOS user, and Google is set to make Android’s best feature even better in the upcoming Android M release. Context is key to understanding what information you need and when, and the brand-new Now on Tap feature will bring you answers based on more contexts than ever; even the app you’re using or what you’re reading about online.
Google Now already uses contexts to decide what you need to know—you require different information at Disneyland than you would at home or at work, explained Aparna Chennapragada, Google’s director of product management, when introducing Now on Tap at the Google I/O keynote. Now on Tap works with more contexts, like the current app you’re using and what’s happening inside it. It’s best shown off in demos, and the demos at I/O were beyond impressive.
When listening to Skrillex in Google Play Music, you can ask, “What is his real name?” and Google Now knows that "his" is referring to Skrillex. If you’re reading an email from a friend inviting you to a movie, you can just tap and hold the home button for a Google Now card about that movie, including a link to the trailer on YouTube, plus the movie’s pages in apps like IMDb and Flixster.
Now on Tap can even let you take actions. The demo audience was shown a conversation in the Weibo app, Aparna’s husband asking about dinner plans at a certain restaurant, and confessing that he forgot to pick up the dry cleaning. She was able to tap and hold the home button for two actionable Google Now cards: One for the restaurant, letting her map it, call it, or look it up on Yelp or OpenTable, and the other card to add a reminder to get the dry cleaning.
This can even work on the web. In a Chrome tab, we saw an article about Hugh Laurie coming to the HBO show Veep. All she had to do to find out more about Hugh was tap his name in the article, and a Google Now card popped up from the bottom of the screen with information.
Apps don’t need modifications to let Google Now use them as context, but developers will be able to make their Google Now cards more actionable. A pilot program is underway with 100 partners to surface actionable cards for their apps. When you arrive in a new town, you could see a card to order a car from Lyft or Uber. On your commute, a card could come up offering to play your favorite Pandora station, or you could reorder groceries right from Instacart’s Google Now card.
Google will follow up with more information about Now on Tap as Android M gets closer to launch, and from what was shown at I/O, the Now on Tap feature can’t arrive quickly enough.
Of course, this wasn’t the only cool new product Google announced at I/O. For the full rundown about Inbox’s tweaks, the new Photos app, the Brillo OS for Internet of Things devices, and a whole lot more, check out Greenbot’s Google I/O landing page. And be sure to vote in our survey below for the major Google I/O announcements that excite you the most.