As Google Allo becomes available worldwide, just over a week into its existence, its Google Assistant is already being called a standout in the rapidly growing field of bots.
Pete Skomoroch, founder of early-stage startup Skipflag and formerly a principal data scientist at LinkedIn, called the search engine-powered Google Assistant “the best I’ve ever used .”
Other people in the bot ecosystem, like Matrix Partners investor and former Facebook Parse cofounder Ilya Sukhar, have had similarly rosy things to say about Allo .
“Allo’s assistant seems best in class. Everything else is meh,” Sukhar tweeted shortly after the release of the chat app.
This is the beginning, said Google vice president of engineeringScott Huffman, the “first time you’re able to have conversation with Google.”
This virtual assistant has the power to answer questions, perform translations, or plan a night out, and it is already embedded in Allo. But in the coming months it will also become part of Google Home and a true competitor to Amazon Alexa and other virtual assistants inside devices.
Above: Google Assistant interacts with a user in search of tacos. Image Credit: Google
Allo’s release comes at a time of rapid change and investment in chat apps.
The race to the killer bot
If you haven’t followed along, here’s where we are in the chat wars.
In the span of less than six months, Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft — hands down some of the biggest tech companies in the world — either launched a bot platform for their chat app, gave developers access to their platform so they can make their own bots, or, in the case of Google, created a new chat app.
Since April, tens of thousands of developers have created bots for Facebook Messenger, Kik, Slack, and the like. But none has been a breakout hit, the one that like a rising tide has the potential to lift the collective boats of virtual assistants and the bot ecosystem in general. In short, there’s been no killer bot — until Google Assistant.
Microsoft’s Tayhad potential to be a killer bot. But it turned out to be a racist, sexist jerk who smoked weed in front of the police . We checked: There are no plans for Tay to make a return at this time, a Microsoft spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email.
It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, exactly, Tay and Google Assistant. Tay was made to be more conversational than what we’ve seen from Google Assistant so far, but Tay is derived fromXiaoice, a bot made by Bing researchers with the ability to do many of the things Google Assistant can do today.
So it could be that Google — the last of the tech giants to show us its consumer-facing chat client for the coming chat wars — has built the first killer bot.
What Allo gets right
Already downloaded 10 million times on Android, Allo and its Google Assistant are not without flaws, but here are a few things they do get right.
First, Google Assistant leverages the powerful search capabilities that made Google a verb and a multi-billion dollar company. As my colleague Emil Protalinski described it, Google Assistant is “like chatting with Google Search and Google Now in one.”
Second, Allo appears to fundamentally understand the importance of group chat. Want to send a new message with Allo? Before you see Incognito Mode, Google Assistant, or your friends, you see “Start a new group chat.” The ability to operate a bot within a group immediately gives Allo an advantage over platforms like Facebook Messenger , which does not allow bots to chat in groups.
While in group chat, you can do Google searches together, look for a restaurant together, play group games, and, it appears, do anything else Google Assistant can do.
This will be even more powerful when Google Assistant can make purchases, schedule appointments, or complete tasks for a group.