Thursday, 18 October 2012
Use text-based Google Now (sort of) on any device, no Android required
Google Now is Googles fresh new virtual assistant. You ask a question, it gives you an answer. It can tell you the weather, whether your flight is on time or not, how many miles to the moon, the half-time score of your favourite football team, if there's a traffic jam on your way home, the nearest sushi place, and much more. Of course it also works as a dictionary, calculator, currency converter, ...
But you need an Android phone or tablet to use Google Now. And not just any Android, but Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean or newer.
Unless you settle for a lighter version. No matter what device you use, you can get the same answers if you ask your questions to Google Talk chatbot firstname.lastname@example.org.
And when I say any device, I mean any device. As long as it can connect with Google Talk you're in. You could use imo on Android, fring on Symbian, Trillian on your PC, and of course Googles own Google Talk app. It even works with the chat app on your Blackberry or iPad.
You have to type or swype or your questions, though. And the chatbot doesn't talk to you, it only writes to you. This is a bonus in classrooms where you don't want your teachers to find out you're cheating, in public transport where talk on phones is annoying for everyone, in your local techno club where the noise deafens everyone and everything including your phone, etc. And if you want to talk'n'listen anyway, just use your phones text-to-speak feature. You don't get the "I predict what you're gonna ask and tell you before you ask it" part of Google Now either, which is bad if you don't value your privacy and good if you do.
This pseudo-Google Now is nothing new, really. Google launched it a year and a half ago, but nobody really noticed. But now that you heard about it, give it a test spin. Add email@example.com to your favourite instant messaging app and ask ahead. Want more? Then use Voice Search with Voice Actions or one of its many spinoffs to search your phone and the web and control your phone as well (Siri wasn't that new after all).