- Google updated its Assistant app for Android with features that include showing search ads, the first time that the search giant has added ads to its virtual assistant experience, the company announced in a blog post. Google Assistant will only show sponsored results for a small number of queries, which may allay concerns that the company's artificial intelligence (AI) platform will become cluttered with ads, TechCrunch reported.
- Depending on the query, Google Assistant's search response may show links to a variety of sources from across the web. In these cases, the full set of search results from the web will be shown and may include the existing ads that are seen in the classic search function.
- The updated Assistant app displays search results that more closely resemble the format of its mobile browser, instead of its former pared-down version. It also has tools like a tip calculator, metronome music pacer and bubble level that are specifically designed for mobile devices.
While rival Amazon can monetize its Alexa virtual assistant with services like voice shopping, Google's main source of revenue always has been advertising. A key question for the search giant is how it will monetize its Google Assistant while refraining from possibly alienating consumers who don't want to sit through audio ads on a smart speaker or mobile device.
The updated mobile app version of Assistant shows one way that advertising can be incorporated into the service with a more visual approach. Showing a limited number of sponsored links that aren't too intrusive can help Google monetize the technology while helping advertisers reach engaged audiences who may be ready to buy a product or service.
As brands like Starbucks, Food Network and FitStar have demonstrated with the reformatted Google Assistant app, marketers have an expanded range of software tools that help to provide better customer service in a single app. The expanded functionality is akin to the wide range of services on WeChat, the Chinese messaging app that acts like a miniature operating system on Android phones. WeChat lets smarpthone users perform a wide array of tasks, including paying bills, ordering food and hailing a ride, within the confines of a single platform.
As Google expands the functionality of its Assistant app, rival Amazon is seeking to expand its Alexa assistant beyond the home with the development of wearable earbuds. The earbuds are a significant priority for Amazon's Lab126 hardware division, which also is working on an Alexa-powered home robot for consumers codenamed Vesta.