Earlier today, Google introduced some additional Now cards and functionality through an update to its Android search app (not yet for iOS). They extend to live TV, music and location-sensitive offers. Google announced the new features in a post on its Android Google+ site.
Here’s the list of new capabilities, available for Android 4.1 and above:
- Information about shows you’re watching on your Internet-connected TV
- Saved offers when nearby a redemption location
- New voice action: play music from your phone or the Play Store
- Voice actions tips
The most celebrated feature (already) of the upgrade is “listen for live TV,” which can provide background or additional facts about shows users are watching — in real time. The capability requires an Internet-connected TV (US only for now) and the handset or Android tablet to be on the same network.
Users tap the prompt “listen for a TV show” and the additional information will appear from Google’s Knowledge Graph (I assume). This is a more limited version of the “social TV” functionality offered by Yahoo’s IntoNow app.
The other feature highlighted by Google is location-aware offers. If you’ve purchased Google Offers, you’ll receive a prompt via Google Now when you’re physically near the relevant business location or outlet. That’s very useful, but it doesn’t work outside of Google Offers (won’t work for Groupon or LivingSocial). Apple Passbook has similar functionality but includes third-party offers and cards stored in Passbook.
You can also initiate music playback with a voice command. You simply indicate the artist or track you want to hear and then the default app you want to use (Google Music is the default unless you change it). It works with select third-party apps such as Pandora. Siri can play tracks stored in iTunes or open third-party apps (e.g., Pandora), but it can’t play individual artists or tracks directly from third-party apps.
Each change and upgrade makes Google Now more useful and functional. There are quite a few capabilities now — enough that people may start losing track. But each one takes the Google search app farther from being a mere gateway to content and increasingly into the realm of self-contained virtual assistant.