Google Now, the intelligent personal assistant bundled into Android andÂ Googleâ€™sÂ search application, is already adept at bringing you the information you need at the right time, whether thatâ€™s traffic alerts, event reminders, sports scores, stock updates, weather, flight info, and much more. But one area where Google Now falls a little short is in customizing the assistant more precisely to yourÂ needs.
Today, this is done via a series of on/off toggle switches in the appâ€™s settings, which is a bit hidden, as well as by tapping on individual items where you can tell the app youâ€™re â€œnot interestedâ€ in that card, or that news source.
However,Â a new feature in the works called â€œExplore Interestsâ€ appears it will give users more control over what sort of information Google will track on your behalf, and will makeÂ it easier to tell Google exactly what sort of information you want to hear more about.
The feature was spotted in the wild by the blog Android Police, which claimed it may be rolling out slowly. However, a Google spokesperson confirmed â€œInterestsâ€ isÂ an experiment that the company is testing with the look-and-feel of the product, adding that Google has nothing to announce at this time.
With â€œExplore Interests,â€ Google is offering a different way to track news and other topics, beyond allowing Google to passively determine this information based on things like search history or location. The app informs users they can â€œpick teams, bands, movies, and moreâ€ and a click-through takes them to a screen where there are colorful tiles forÂ sections like â€œSports,â€ â€œTV,â€ â€œMovies,â€ â€œMusicians,â€ â€œPeople,â€ â€œStocks,â€ and more.
As you dive into each section, you can browse through cards of individual items across a number of subcategories, then click plus (+) signs to add the item to the list of things youâ€™re tracking.
For example, under the â€œTVâ€ categories, thereâ€™s a subsection of just â€œRealityâ€ TV shows, with items like â€œThe Voice,â€ â€œAmerican Idol,â€ â€œThe Bachelor,â€ and others available to track with just a tap. Meanwhile, the â€œPeopleâ€ section may show you cards for politicians like Clinton and Trump, as well as athletes, actors and other figures.
As you browse through these sections, you can also see which topics areÂ â€œPopular in Your Area,â€ which gives the Google Now interests feature a bit of local flair.
The idea of using Google to track very specific information is something thatâ€™s been around for ages, dating back to the launch of Google Alerts. A number of startups also arrived over the years, trying to bestÂ the Google Alerts experience,Â but most have beenÂ focused on the â€œsocialâ€ mentions space. Google Nowâ€™s (hopefully) forthcoming â€œInterestsâ€ section will instead offer a similar tracking ability, but bundle it into the app that usersÂ launch daily.
Being able to better customize the Google Now assistant is something that comes at a critical time for the company, as Appleâ€™s Siri is making its way onto Mac in addition to iOS and Apple TV, Cortana is bundled into Windows and canâ€™t be entirely shut off,Â and Amazonâ€™s Alexa platform is making strong headwayÂ into the customerâ€™s home through itsÂ Echo speaker and other devices. Google, therefore, is challenged to not only make its assistant practical and proactive, in terms of offering things you need to know â€“ like when to leave for your meeting â€“ but inÂ making it a tool thatÂ tracks those things you want to know about, too.
Image credits: Android Police