Google wants to change how we use the Internet

By Alex Heath

Getty | Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Google wants to be your virtual assistant.

By leveraging the power of Google search and artificial intelligence, Google Assistant can do everything from search the web to book movie tickets.

At first blush, it's just a smarter version of the Google Now assistant that works on Android devices and within the Google app on iOS - the one that responds to the voice command "OK Google."

But the vision behind Google Assistant is bold. It wants to be the future of how you use not only Google, but the entire internet. And it will work in phones, wearables, Google's new messaging app Allo, the Google Home smart hub, and even in cars.

"We want users to have an ongoing, two-way dialogue with Google," CEO Sundar Pichai said at the company's IO developers conference on Wednesday. "We want to help you get things done in your real world. We think of this as giving each user their own individual Google."

Pichai gave the example of standing in front of the famous bean statue in Chicago. By understanding where you are, Google Assistant will know what you're looking at and be able to answer a question like, "Who designed this?" You don't even need to tell it where you are or describe what you're looking at.

Another example Pichai gave was trying to find a movie to watch on a Friday night with his family.

Right now you could ask Google ""What's playing tonight?" and see a list of show times, but with Assistant you'll be able to follow that question up ""I want to bring the kids this time." Assistant will then show kid-friendly movies and ask if you'd like to buy tickets with the payment information you have saved to your account.

YouTube | Some of the partners that will work with Google Assistant.

Imagine telling Google to book you an Uber ride.

This kind of voice-guided, frictionless conversation is currently the Holy Grail of modern computing. Nearly every major tech company is investing in AI-powered virtual assistants. Facebook is building M, a chat-based assistant similar to Google's. Amazon has the Echo, Microsoft has Cortana, and the creators of Siri are releasing a potentially revolutionary AI assistant called Viv later this year.

Google Assistant is entering a crowded space, but Google's advantage is that it already owns web search and loads of data on user habits that it can mine. Plus it has perhaps the deepest bench of AI experts in the tech industry. Whether normal people want to use virtual assistants or not remains to be seen, but Google has as good a shot as anyone to convince them when its Assistant comes out later this year.

For an even better idea of how Google Assistant will work, watch this demo video:

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