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Google's Messaging App Allo Has AI Features

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We've reached a technological breaking point ever since the release of the iPhone 7. Once the headphone jack was done away with, phone users were forced to depend solely on Bluetooth. Away with you, dangling cords! Be prepared, however, to spend a frustrated minute every now and again making sure your Bluetooth headphones are connected to the right device. Oh, no sound? Spend an equally annoying moment reconnecting your headphones to your phone.

The reasoning for nixing the headphone jack must come from a place of betterment. Apple is trying to take a step towards advancement, and Google is doing the same with their newest voice chat messenger, Allo.

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How We Got Here

Using just your voice to make phone calls, pull up a calendar event, or text while driving (just kidding, we would never dare to be so dangerous) is well and good, but it's never truly caught on. This is because voice recognition has consistently remained appallingly inaccurate. To be fair, the most primitive form of speech recognition was born in the 1950's and could only understand digits. It wasn't until the early 2000's that speech recognition was given any attention. How serendipitous that Google took the reins in vitalizing the technology. By the time Google took over, voice recognition accuracy had reached a plateau at 80%.

In 2008, Google created a voice search app that used its cloud data centers to do heavy computing and data analysis. Essentially, this yielded the search power and data processing abilities of Google in voice-activated, app form. A couple years later, Google's voice recognition became personalized. Recording voice queries paved the way for constructed speech models, meaning that the software could more easily understand the nuances of your specific speech. Their technology became integrated into Google Chrome, incorporating 230 billion words amassed from user queries.

Siri is the final product. Operating from cloud-based processing, Siri generates responses based on known variables about the user. By now, voice recognition accuracy hovers close to its human counterparts at 98%. Yet, she still seems lacking.

Is it perhaps the novelty factor? Siri responds to certain queries with humorous answers, after all.

Google Takes Charge Yet Again

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Enter Google's newest app, Allo. Announced at I/O, the smart messaging app operates using machine learning and Google Assistant service. Basically, it's an AI-based chat platform. It has all the capabilities of any other messaging app on the market (think WhatsApp and Messenger), in addition to animated graphics, enlarged/shrunken text, in-Google calls to share media, plan events, make purchases, and, if you're feeling uninspired, have a message created for you.

Let's take a closer look at the features. Contacts can be found using phone numbers or through Google accounts. As we've seen in the past year, privacy is fast becoming an important factor when using messaging services. As such, there will be an "incognito" mode in Allo, similar to Google Chrome, where chats are end-to-end encrypted. When in incognito mode, notifications are discreet, something that Google has said will be iterated and updated according to TechCrunch.


Where Allo has set itself apart from the pack is with AI integration. A Smart Reply feature will suggest responses to conversations for you, inserting them without the need to type. Generated responses are based on what the AI learns from your replies to conversations, which are continually analyzed. Smart Replies attempts to copy your persona in its suggested reply. With this feature you won't have to worry about typing out a lengthy response. It can even work with photos, suggesting replies to images by sourcing Google Photos.

Julio the Bull (img src: greenbot.com)
The bot-based Google Assistant has the ability to chat directly to its users. Typing @google into chat will prompt the Assistant to enter. From there ask it questions, bring it into a group chat to help with planning, or have it reference information from other Google applications. For now, the AI only has access to information from Google, meaning no information from third-party services is available.

We haven't even gotten to emojis yet. Taking cues from Snapchat and Viber, Allo will have its own selection of unique stickers. Over time, new sticker packs will be released. For now, here's Julio the Bull to titillate your interest.

After failing to find an appropriate startup company to use as a baseline for development, Allo was created in-house and led by Erik Kay, Director of Engineering for Google's Communication team. Looking back on Google's contributions to voice recognition technology, Allo is the fruition of their efforts. Google has had continued, unrivaled success in providing information services, phone technology, and basic services (email, professional profiles). Hopefully, a bit of that magic will spread to Allo.


It should be noted that Edward Snowden has issued a warning on Twitter urging people to steer clear of Allo.





Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver). Follow her @Songbird_Jacqui


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Google's Messaging App Allo Has AI Features Reviewed by Jacqueline Litvan on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 Rating: 5

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