back to article Not enough personality: Google Now becomes Google Not Anymore

Google is rebranding its screen-scraping data guzzler Now On Tap, as it buries the entire Now initiative under the onslaught of its multiplatform chatty “Assistant” project. Only two years ago, Now On Tap was heralded as “Android’s next killer feature” (CNet) and even “the future of Android” (ComputerWorld). But Now On Tap …

  1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


    "Google Maps" is being rebranded as "We Know Where You Live". :-o

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: And

      Don't see the joke in there.

      It also knows where you work and where your kids go to school...

      1. anoco

        Re: And

        And the route you take from work to the kids' school.

        And how long your kids will have to wait if Waze directed all traffic to that one street that you can't avoid.

        And how to make it so difficult to get a signal when you're trying to call the school or your kids to say you're late.

        And how to make that rare pokemon appear down the street right behind that unmarked van.

        And how to delete all your kids' photos from the Gallery to drive you crazy thinking that you had kids to begin with.

        Really, not funny at all...

  2. Mage Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Oh when

    When are governments going to wake up and protect their citizens? After all if you are a more invasive regime you should be upset about the usurper moving in.

    1. Camilla Smythe

      Re: Oh when

      Eh? Surely Duh Gooberments just lurve this sort of stuff. Let Google do the heavy lifting and then subpoena them for the bits they want.

      1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

        Re: Oh when

        That would be exactly how Google has avoided anti-trust lawsuits. They collect all the information so that the NSA doesn't have to, and probably so they can actually tell the truth when they say "Nope, no illegally-obtained data here.".

        Google has insight on pretty much anything that happens online, either through the user searching for something and then clicking on the link, or through the plethora of scripts that nearly every website runs (google-analytics, Google APIs, or GoogleTagServices). Two of those scripts are running right now on this very webpage...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh when

      "When are governments going to wake up and protect their citizens?"

      When hell freezes over. I think they probably the deflection that comes from tangible privacy rip offs the public can more easily hate due to "more relevant ads" etc.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Mage - Re: Oh when

      Governments ? Have a look at this:

      and accept that all other governments don't really matter.

    4. Ilsa Loving

      Re: Oh when

      You realize that governments are probably close customers of Google, sucking every piece of data that Google is willing to give them.

  3. User McUser


    How does the character think of itself in a way that you can relate to? What is its childhood?

    Jesus tap-dancing Christ, when did Google become the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation?

    I do not want to have conversations *with* my phone - I want to find out what the weather forecast is or check my email or whatever and then have it shut the hell up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: YPPWFTBW!

      A shame Douglas Adams didn't live to see this. He'd have had a field day with it.

      1. TitterYeNot

        Re: YPPWFTBW!

        A shame Douglas Adams didn't live to see this. He'd have had a field day with it.

        Oh I think it's safe to say he saw this coming a very long time ago (original radio series, Secondary Phase, 1980):-


        ZAPHOD: Computer?

        EDDIE: Hi there! We gonna have a conversation?

        ZAPHOD: No. You’re gonna tell me what those Vogons want, and how they’re armed.

        EDDIE: Then shall we have a conversation?

        ZAPHOD: What?

        EDDIE: According to my programming, in the evening leisure periods the crew will like to relax and enjoy pleasant social activities with a wide range of shipboard robots and computers. Man and machine share in the stimulating exchange of...[Screeching noise]...Aaaaaaaaaaaagh!

        ZAPHOD: What happened?

        FORD: I just jammed a quick negative load across its logic terminals.

        EDDIE: Hey that hurt!

        FORD: Huh. Good.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      User McUser - Re: YPPWFTBW!

      Yep, intellectual mastur$#^ion is what drives Google's finest minds. In the mean time, the planet....

  4. Eddy Ito Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Maybe I should hurry and buy one of the remaining BB10 phones while I still can.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      All you actually need is a phone known to be rootable and an open/bypassed bootloader. There do exist ROMs without Google...

  5. DougS Silver badge

    A childhood? WTF!

    Yeah, Siri/Cortana/<insert whatever name Google gives theirs> don't need a backstory. The advance I want isn't for Siri to become my best friend or a shoulder to cry on, what I'd like is to be able to tell her "I'm looking to buy a Raspberry Pi to drive commercial signage. I need it to have HDMI or composite output, ability to play a slideshow, and for non-technical people to easily update the slideshow. Go research what I will need to do that, including any accessories, find the best price, and place the order."

    She might come back with some questions like "do you need wifi or will wired ethernet do?" and "do you want to put it in a case or leave it bare?" then "a fancy case or the cheapest that will do?" as she surfs and digests web pages 1000x faster than a human and understands within three seconds that my initial query didn't provide everything that was needed to complete the task. I'd expect her to complete the task in a minute or two and confirm it was done.

    This is something I actually did yesterday, which took me about an hour and a half (I had zero experience with Raspberry Pi, so I had to start from scratch figuring out what I needed) We are many many years away from an assistant doing something like this - something I would task my personal assistant with if I was a Hollywood star or CEO mogul and had a personal assistant.

    Today we're at "hey Siri, can you can Shazam this song for me?" Or at least I assume we're there, Siri is supposed to interact better with third party apps but I haven't upgraded to iOS 10 yet and I don't know if Shazam has added any support for Siri, but that's about the limit of what I can expect today. There isn't even any "memory" like a real assistant would have - I can't say "please go to iTunes and buy that song I asked you to Shazam last night". I'd have to provide the song name.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: A childhood? WTF!

      Yeah.. childhood. I guess they think we need to have a bonding and a relationship with products these days. Sort of harkens back to some advertisers having the human in the commercial hug a product while moaning "I love you" only more sinister in that it's recording your reaction.

    2. Oengus

      Re: A childhood? WTF!

      Siri, can you can Shazam this song for me?

      A really smart Siri would use what ever service gave the best answer if you asked "Siri, What song is this?" That is what a real personal assistant would do... I shouldn't have to know that Shazam exists or what it does.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: A childhood? WTF!

        Except SHAZAM has an interest in limiting access to its services to human eyeballs. And since neither Siri nor Cortana have comprehensively passed a Turing Test, there WILL be ways to tell them apart, meaning it will NOT have access to everything willy-nilly to answer the question transparently for you. An assistant can't well do its job if the sign on the door clearly reads "NO PROXIES."

      2. Jonathan Richards 1

        *Real* smarts...

        ... are required to parse the verb "to Shazam".

      3. D@v3

        Re: Siri / Shazam

        I think it is 'powered by shazam' (even if you don't have the app installed), but you can just ask 'what song is this?' and it is usually quite acurate.

      4. Joe Harrison

        Re: A childhood? WTF!

        I can say "OK Google what's this tune" on KitKat and it will identify it most of the time. Or there is a Google "what's this song" widget. Then they offer to sell it to you for 99p.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: A childhood? WTF!

          I don't think it was ever sold. I had it for years until it was disabled: the function being integrated into the Google Search app instead (with a couple widgets available to take their place). Problem is unlike the old widget, I can't find a Music Search history, so I endup up back at SoundHound.

    3. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: A childhood? WTF!

      I wouldn't be surprised if you formed an emotional bond with it, it didn't go all sad and make you feel like you are abandoning a child when it detects that you might be interested in another device.

      I imagine a future where one day you mutter to yourself "I wonder what Samsung has out now" and Siri starts talking about 'All the good times you've had together' and mentioning that trip the two of you went on last year and how it would be a shame to through away all that time and energy sorting your photos and videos just to throw it all away...

  6. Steve 39

    I tried to use the voice function of Google on my Samsung this evening to set a reminder. "Remind me to post letters tomorrow at 10am". Innocent enough previously on my iPhone.

    Turns out I needed to enable Google Now or somesuch. Turns out it needs to access my:

    "Contacts, calendars, apps, music, battery life, sensor readings".

    And then "Places you go".

    Couldn't believe it, but I suppose I should have believed it.

    1. Camilla Smythe


      You want it to remind you to do something at a certain time which involves visiting a certain place.

      Contacts: To reply to people who get in touch when you are delivering your letters to tell them you are delivering letters and say you will call them back.

      Calendars: To check that you will be free at the time when you wish to deliver your letters rather than in an important meeting you have forgotten about.

      Apps: In case you want to play Pokemon on the way to the letterbox. You might find a new one you have not yet caught.

      Music: So you can listen to some jazz on your walk to the letterbox... cool.

      Battery Life: To ensure that it has enough juice to guide you to the nearest, profitable, letterbox by the best, profitable, route and, based on your browsing history guide you past multiple 'sock shops'.

      Sensor Readings: To make sure you are following the most profitable route to the sock shop, letterbox.

      Places you go: In order to make the journey more, profitable, interesting.

      Bank contact details, pin and password: In order to make sure you have enough credit to buy some, stamps, socks.

      and so it goes on.

      See. In order to, monetise you, do its job faithfully and properly it needs all of this data about you. I really have no idea what you might be moaning about.

    2. Jonathan Richards 1

      @Steve 39, in re permissions

      I also: I did something that I hardly ever do, viz. reply to an email using the Android 6 gmail app on my phone. It was bloody difficult because a message would pop up every few seconds (literally) saying "This app will not function without proper permissions: enable access to body sensors [which I could just about understand] and the camera [uh, nope]". What sort of a mail client wants access to the camera?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Steve 39, in re permissions

        Photo attachments...

  7. zanto
    Thumb Up

    Google Now user

    i actually like the service. automatically notifying me that a package is on the way or even reminding me of when to leave office in order to catch a bus are a Godsend to someone who's as forgetful as me.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Google Now user

      Some of the stuff was really good but it was accompanied by a lot of guff. I really like the way they've added the clever stuff into the calendar app. For me, the Android calendar has by far the best UX. Interestingly I hated Apple's dumbing down of the Calendar app so much that I switched to BusyCal.

    2. Halfmad Silver badge

      Re: Google Now user

      I like it but whenever my mobile loses mobile data Google Now reminds me of the last time my team lost to our bitter rivals with a mid-game score showing us winning. I keep getting excited.. only to then realise it's an old game.

      God damn it Google, I thought you did no evil?!

  8. Anonymous C0ward

    Somebody will teach it to be racist

    I guarantee it.

    1. User McUser
    2. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Somebody will teach it to be racist

      You need actually sentient machines first. A book can never itself be racist, only its writer can.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Somebody will teach it to be racist

        Sure it can, if its subject matter is racist. An opinion can be racist even after the speaker changes his/her mind (or dies).

  9. whoelse


    Tested it, and what's not mentioned in there article is tha, there is still a secure Incognito mode, you just have to enable it for that chat by pressing the Incognito button. It encrypts the message and auto deletes messages after an hour (or whatever time you select). Securing content from Google means that conversation loses the shared assistant function. Haven't tried it on two phones, but I'd imagine enabling Incognito forces it for both clients.

  10. bombastic bob Silver badge

    I'd rather teach it to fuel my fetishes

    come on, hasn't anybody though of this one yet? Make the google version of siri:

    a) speak to me like a lucious lady of the night,

    b) be "of age" but look a bit younger, complete with school girl uniform

    c) never get old, never cheat on me, and never ever ever say "no"

    my own virtual girlfriend that will go get things I want online, find out how to drive from point A to point B, and knows my deepest darkest perverted secrets...

    yum yum yum!

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: I'd rather teach it to fuel my fetishes

      Would Sir prefer our RealDoll-integrated deluxe model or the plain smartphone-based one...?

  11. bombastic bob Silver badge

    being able to programatically shut it off

    for the 'droid application I've been working on recently (demonstrated at a trade conference in Las Vegas last weekend), this might be mandatory - it's for certain kinds of doctors to use with a medical device. And I've seen other android applications being used in similar ways (being demonstrated at that same trade conference).

    yeah we don't need patient data going to 'the cloud'

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: being able to programatically shut it off

      You'd be better of legally contracting for a customized phone so you can disable that kind of stuff at low level. Otherwise, Google Play Services will always hold the final call, which can be problematic in the face of Doctor/Patient Confidentiality laws.

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