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Google's Allo puts AI in a messaging app

Engadget Engadget 18/05/2016 Nicole Lee
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Google has introduced a new messaging app today called Allo. It's not a Hangouts replacement, but a completely standalone app that looks a little more like Facebook's Messenger. Indeed, it follows the latter's model and incorporates a little bit of machine learning courtesy of Google's newly announced Assistant. As Erik Kay, a Google engineering director, points out on stage, Allo is a smart messaging app that "learns over time" to make conversations easier and more productive.

Like a lot of messaging apps, Allo has something called Expressions. These look to be an amped up version of emojis and stickers. For example, Kay demonstrated something called Whisper Shout -- sliding your finger down will result in a small-text "whisper" while sliding it up will prompt a large-text "shout." You can also send full-bleed photos, with the ability to doodle over it like you can on Snapchat. Interestingly, Allo is based on your phone number -- you sign up with it. Connecting Allo to your Google account is completely optional.

Another neat feature is something called Smart Reply, which utilizes some of that machine learning mentioned earlier. So if someone says "Dinner later?" it'll automatically suggest options like "I'm in!" or "I'm busy," anticipating what you want to say next. The more you use it, Kay says, the better the app will be. Smart Replies can include emojis and stickers too.

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