Google debuts Assistant, a conversational AI helper

This is how Google Now is evolving.

Say hello to Google Assistant, a more conversational spin on the company's existing voice search capabilities. In many ways, it looks like the logical evolution of Google Now -- though for some reason it isn't getting a catchy name like Cortana, Siri or Alexa. By saying "OK Google," you can query it with simple questions as before, or do complex things like book movie tickets. The key with Assistant, unlike Google Now before it, is that it starts a two-way natural language conversation to figure out what you're asking.

Google I/O 2016: What Is Google Assistant?

"We think of it as building each users its own individual Google," CEO Sundar Pichai said on stage today at the company's I/O developer conference. He added that 20 percent of Google mobile searches today occur through voice searches. "We've started becoming truly conversational with our users," he said.

As an example, Pichai offered up the idea of finding a movie to watch on a Friday night. Assistant will respond with the available titles and theater locations, just as you'd expect. But what's really intriguing is that you can also follow up with a comment like "We'd like to bring the kids this time" to narrow down your choices to family-friendly films. Assistant will also follow up to ask if you want four tickets and complete the purchase for you if you confirm.

You can expect to find Google Assistant everywhere you can say "OK Google." That means on your mobile devices, on the desktop and on the company's new Home speaker. It'll also be a significant part of the company's new Allo chat app, where you'll be able to send queries through text. From the demos shown at IO, Google Assistant looks even more capable than Amazon's Alexa, which we've heralded as one of the best voice-powered assistants on the market.

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