Google Now, the search giant's Android-based virtual assistant, is getting a suite of new features that aim to make the tool an even more engrained part of people's daily routines.
The assistant, which seeks to anticipate what information people will need before they've even asked for it, is giving users the option to put the app front and center on their phones for faster -- and, Google no doubt hopes, more regular -- access.
Currently, people have to unlock their phones and swipe their phone's home screen to view the assistant's customized list of "cards," which present personalized updates on sports scores, traffic, nearby tourist attractions, recommended restaurants and reminders, among other types of information.
Google Now's most recent update will allow users to check in with the assistant directly from their lockscreen or homescreen and to save their most frequently-accessed "cards" for easy reference.
"For me personally, this has increased my usage of my own product," said Google Now co-creator Baris Gultekin.
"The new Google Now widget brings all your important Now cards to your home or lock screen, so you don't even have to open the app," Google wrote in a blog post introducing the new look.
Google Now already sends alerts to users when it deems there's urgent information they should see, though Gultekin notes Google tries to use the alert system sparingly. For example, Google Now can tap into a person's calendar, Gmail correspondence and location information, along with Google's own mapping data, to warn someone there's bad traffic on her route to the office that will make her late for a key meeting.
"With Google Now, our goal is to have the computers do the hard work so you don't hve to deal with all the details and you can focus on the things that matter to you in life," said Gultekin. "This is search not with a keyboard, but with your context. We're providing information based on your situation, so you don't even have to search."
Google Now is also being integrated with Rotten Tomatoes in order to put movie reviews alongside trailers and showtime information, Google announced Wednesday. In addition, the assistant will sync with real estate site Zillow so it can alert prospective homebuyers to houses in their area that are on the market. While visiting an open house, Google Now can use a person's location -- paired with Zillow's database -- to push them information about the home they're visiting.
A screenshot of Google Now's Zillow integration.
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