Earlier this week, Google unveiled their new phone, the Pixel, and got themselves deeply in the hardware business. Besides the phone, they also unveiled the Google Home device, and a mesh wireless system called Google Wifi. This was on top of a new VR headset to go along with the Pixel, and a revamped Chomecast. I many ways Google is looking a lot more like Apple, but then again, they’re not.
When Google unveiled the Pixel, they didn’t just tout the specs of the phone, but really pushed their new Google Assistant. The Google Assistant is similar to Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, in that it is an AI that can answer questions from you, and help you interact with your device by voice. The one thing that none of those other AI’s have though is your search history from all your Google searches. Google knows so many things about us, not just because they can read our emails, and our Hangouts, and our Docs, but because Google is the gateway to how we ask questions online.
If you’re curious about cruises to the Bahamas, Google knows this. If you’re concerned about a medical issue, Google knows this. Now, with Pixel, Google can leverage all that it knows about you, and incorporate it into a small device that sits in your pocket, or a speaker that sits on your shelf, or even into the small wi-fi devices you might scatter around your house. The fact that Google doesn’t just know the things you’ve committed to, but the things that you’re thinking about in the future, is a little bit scary.
When Google was unveiling all of this on Tuesday, I commented to a friend (using Google Hangouts) that all these little white devices that Google is placing in our homes, almost feels like the start of a bad sci-fi movie where a large company takes over the world through devices that everyone owns. How many evil movie plots have revolved around a seemingly harmless convenience device suddenly getting new orders and enslaving the humans that use it?
Granted this is pretty far-fetched, since even as popular as Google is, not everyone is going to buy their devices. But the paradigm is a bit frighting. Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft all have their own AI’s, and they draw on what they know about you. My iPhone knows that when I get to my parking lot that the most likely app I’m going to use is my Music app. It’s customizing my experience based on past habits, which is something people do all the time in real life. However, it doesn’t know what new and crazy thing I’m thinking about for tomorrow… but Google does.