It’s been four months since we first heard about Google’s messaging app; Allo and since then there has been some quiet about it. Google had at the time announced Allo and another video call service called Duo which it has since launched. But now in a post yesterday, Google says it has now launched Allo and the service is now available to all. This means the service will gradually roll out worldwide over a couple of days.
The app which is available on Android and iOS devices could change the face of instant messaging services with its artificial intelligence (AI) features. Like other Google services like Home, this Mobil only messaging app leverages on the vast amount of data you and I have on Google or better put, the amount of data Google has on us.
Using Google Assistant which is a chatbot, “you can have a conversation with Google — ask it questions and let it help you get things done directly in your chats. You no longer need to leave a conversation with friends just to grab an address, share your favorite YouTube video, or pick a dinner spot. Just type @google to bring your Assistant into any group chat. And of course, you can also chat one-one-one with your Assistant in Allo.”
Using the @google which Google thinks is one the main selling points of the app, you can practically voice chat with Google to get latest updates on weather, traffic and even sports results. There is also the fun part of it where you can ask the assistant to share funny videos you have watched with friends in your chat group. There’s even more fun stuff like knowing movie times and even some of the best restaurant in your area. All this can be done in the app and shared to your friends in your chat group. Your chat group is something like your circle on Google Hangout even though this is more closed as it relies on contacts on your phone.
How to use it
The first thing is to install the app which I said is available on iOS and Android and if you check any of the stores and don’t see it, don’t worry. Google says the app will be available worldwide in the next few days. The next thing to do is to create a profile which is linked to your phone number and Google account. From here on, you should be able to see your contacts who are using the app already and if you do find any, you can now initiate conversations. Like WhatsApp, you can invite friends to the app too.
Having installed the app and set it up, you can now do one-on-one chats, group chats and for those who would prefer to interact with machine, you can now initiate that using the @google and the Assistant should be available to you.
Security in Allo
One way of chatting that I omitted above is the incognito chat mode and if you’re familiar with Google Chrome browser, you would have seen such a feature which allows you chat without leaving a history on the machine. “All chats in Google Allo are encrypted using industry standard technologies like Transport Layer Security (TLS). But we went a step beyond this and we created a mode within Google Allo called Incognito(h/t Chrome). When you chat in Incognito mode, messages have end-to-end encryption and additional privacy features like discreet notifications and message expiration.” Like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger which have both allowed end-to-end encrypted chats, Google wants to give you that opportunity in Allo as well for those who have privacy concerns. This also means that between your device and Google servers, there is encryption which makes it nearly impossible for chats to be decoded in transit.
For non-incognito chats, they will be saved by default but a user can delete them manually just like it does in its browser.
Other cool Allo features
Besides other basic messaging features within the app, there’s “smart reply” which allows you quickly send a simply yes or no response to a contact. You can hold the send button down and then scroll up and down to adjust the size of your text and this is called “Yelling” or “Whispering” by Google. This is just like the “Loud” and “Gentle” in iMessage for iOS 10. Another feature that looks similar to the new iMessage is stickers which you download and send in chats in the Allo app. I read somewhere that there are about 29 different sets of them and that some of them are animated. Google also acknowledges the names of creators of these stickers.
Siri open to developers
With renewed interests by companies like Apple in the AI space, Siri which is Apple’s Assistant is now open to developers and you might have started seeing the effects in apps like WhatsApp and Uber. You can now tell Siri to compete and send chat on your behalf in WhatsApp and in the Uber app, Siri can now order for rides for you.
But Google is taking the AI world to a w whole new level by adding more dynamic features to it to make it speaks and act like actual human voice. Through a technology they call WaveNet, they mimicked the human voice and missed it by a few points which brings us to the future of AI which is empathy. This means that in future, machines can change their tones like human beings to fit into context.
Lastly with Google Assistant being the killer feature in the new app, it shows that chatbots are the future really and you can see our report on that here.