Google Now will push information to Jelly Bean Android users based on preferences, search history and physical location.
Anyone with a smartphone that runs Jelly Bean, the latest version of Android, (Google's latest estimates put it at 0.8 percent of Android users worldwide) might have
noticed that since their operating system has been upgraded, their phone has started sending them information. Be it bus timetables, the specials at a local restaurant, or sports results, index cards are appearing on the screen without being asked for but somewho relating exactly to what the user was thinking about.
A posed picture shows a Motorola Droid phone displaying the Google search page in New York. Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid
What they're experiencing is Google Now, which many in the tech community have dubbed Google's answer to Apple's Siri. But apart from the fact that both have been designed to optimize searching on handheld mobile devices, they're quite different. Google Now, which was showcased in June but is only now getting into users' hands, does recognize some voice commands but it draws on users' preferences, search history, calendar entries, email and physical position -- rather than requests -- to send things that it thinks are relevant to the user at that moment in time. As the promotional video puts it: "With the predictive power of Now, you get just what you need to know, right when you need it."
And, with all Google products, the more that people use it and finetune it, the more accurate and more timely it will become. Google is still the world's most popular search engine and its suite of online documents (recently renamed Drive) plus its Gmail email accounts and ever improving maps applications mean that the experience could soon feel like having your mind read.
But for many more of us, it won't take long before Google Now becomes such an integral part of our lives, that we'll be prepared to live with the intrusion.