Google’ll Feed You Con­tent, Make You Smart at Home

The Economic Times - - Disruption: Startups & Tech - Shash­wati.Shankar @times­group.com

Ben­galuru: Google is pre­par­ing to launch its per­son­alised con­tent ser­vice, Google Feed, as well as its smart speaker and as­sis­tant Google Home in In­dia, as the in­ter­net gi­ant dou­bles down on ef­forts to reach more users in the coun­try.

A Google ex­ec­u­tive con­firmed that the com­pany will bring its Google feed ser­vice to In­dia shortly. As for Google Home, three peo­ple aware of the com­pany’s plans said the smart speaker is likely to be launched here next year. “In­dia is su­per high pri­or­ity for us. It’s dif­fi­cult to say ex­actly how soon, but we want to get Google Feed to In­dia soon,” said Shashid­har Thakur, vice pres­i­dent of Google Search, dur­ing an in­ter­ac­tion with ET at the com­pany’s head­quar­ters in Moun­tain View, Cal­i­for­nia. “We are also putting quite a bit of en­ergy into Google Search’s lan­guage di­ver­sity needs in In­dia, fo­cus­ing on 20-odd In­dian lan­guages,” he said.

In July, Google re­leased a per­son­alised news feed for phones that would throw up a stream of con­tent for users, based on lo­ca­tion, search his­tory and top­ics they have se­lected. The com­pany also plans to in­tro­duce a ‘new-to-you’ fea­ture in the feed this year, which will list out links to a user’s favourite top­ics and help him/her take a deeper dive into a par­tic­u­lar sub­ject. Ac­cord­ing to Thakur, an­other area for in­vest­ment for Google in In­dia is lo­cal con­tent. There are var­i­ous chal­lenges in In­dia given the coun­try’s wide va­ri­ety of re­gional lan­guages.“There are dif­fer­ent ways to write ‘Viren­dra’ in the De­vana­gari script and Hindi script. Build­ing these kinds of as­pects into our al­go­rithms is a chal­lenge. In­vest­ing in these as­pects will ul­ti­mately im­prove the feed ex­pe­ri­ence too,” said Thakur.

In the mean­time, Google has repli­cated in­ter­est-spe­cific learn­ings from In­dia in other mar­kets such as South Africa, Aus­tralia and the United King­dom. With Google Home too, the com­pany will ex­plore the use of select re­gional lan­guages, ac­cord­ing to the peo­ple aware of the com­pany’s plans. “Hindi and Tamil are some of the lan­guages that Google will test out for Google Home. Ul­ti­mately, Google Home will aim to be an In­dian house­hold’s go-to source for book­ing a cab, set­ting re­minders, play­ing mu­sic, turn­ing off the lights and so on,” one of them, an an­a­lyst, said. ET re­cently re­ported that Ama­zon plans to launch its voice-based as­sis­tant Alexa through its speaker Echo in In­dia this year, and was test­ing lo­cal lan­guages for this.

An­a­lysts es­ti­mate that Google Home will launch shortly af­ter Ama- zon’s Alexa. “In­dia is a key mar­ket for both the com­pa­nies to test out how well their prod­ucts will take off among the up­per and up­per-mid­dle class sec­tions,” said the an­a­lyst quoted above. “So they may ex­per­i­ment with of­fer­ing deals in terms of pric­ing. But for now, Google will fo­cus on be­com­ing stronger with In­dian lan­guages and un­der­stand­ing lo­cal con­tent needs.” ( The re­porter was in San Franci

sco at the in­vi­ta­tion of Google)

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