Mar 03 AT 10:04 AM Taylor Wimberly 67 Comments

Google’s Majel now called Assistant, slated for Q4 launch


Last year we reported that Google was working on a virtual assistant for Android in response to Apple’s Siri. Later we learned that the project was codenamed Majel when one of our sources told us it was already in testing and a possible launch was imminent. For months no new details were leaked until this week when Alexia Tsotsis of TechCrunch reported that the service will now be called Assistant.

According to an unnamed source, Tsotsis says the project is being led by the Android team along with the help of search engineer Amit Singhal. If you have been following our Majel coverage, that is the same Singhal that said, "My dream has always been to build the Star Trek computer."

Google's own Matias Duarte previously discussed how their approach was different than Apple's. Duarte said, "The metaphor I like to take is — if it’s Star Wars, you have these robot personalities like C-3PO who runs around and he tries to do stuff for you, messes up and makes jokes, he’s kind of a comic relief guy. Our approach is more like Star Trek, right, starship Enterprise; every piece of computing surface, everything is voice-aware. It’s not that there’s a personality, it doesn’t have a name, it’s just 'Computer'."

Tsotsis' source says Google's Assistant has three parts which include:

  1. Get the world’s knowledge into a format a computer can understand.
  2. Create a personalization layer – Experiments like Google +1 and Google+ are Google’s way of gathering data on precisely how people interact with content.
  3. Build a mobile, voice-centered “Do engine” (‘Assistant’) that’s less about returning search results and more about accomplishing real-life goals.

Singhal described one of these "do engine" scenarios by saying, "I would be able to walk up to a computer, and say, ‘Hey, what is the best time for me to sow seeds in India, given that monsoon was early this year?’ And once we can answer that question (which we don’t today), people will be looking for answers to even more complex questions. These are all genuine information needs. Genuine questions that if we — Google — can answer, our users will become more knowledgeable and they will be more satisfied in their quest for knowledge."

Clearly our prediction that Majel would launch last year was wrong, as this project has morphed from a natural language voice search into something much more ambitious. Tsotsis now reports that Google hopes to unveil Assistant by Q4 of 2012. There is still a possibility that Assistant could be rolled out in smaller pieces, but it now sounds like it will become a core feature of a major release of Android.

What types of tasks would you hope Google Assistant could accomplish?

Source: Tech Crunch

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • AnthonyRyan

    wow that’s kind of a late launch Q4 i’m glad to hear and see more news about Majel but Q4…

    • Marcus

      It does seem a little late but it looks like they are putting a LOT of effort into it. I love the way Google is taking their approach with their Assistant. I already know its gonna be awesome!

      • jonathan3579

        Better “late” than never. :)

        • Bruce

          More like, better late than bad.

          • Jon Garrett

            why are people even saying its “late” when was it supposed to be launched?

          • AsakuraZero

            true, siere feels halve backed all the way imo

        • WlfHart

          Worth the wait!

      • AnthonyRyan

        that’s true can’t wait for the one coming months to hear and see more about Google’s Assistant.

    • Ismael Rodriguez

      Yeah, but you have to remember…Google is building a new service altogether and not buying out a 3rd party altogether like certain other fruity competitors.

      • JoAnn

        There is absolutely nothing wrong with making a buy versus build decision. Quite often in business it makes sense to buy from a company that has deeper skills than you have for a particular need. Every company does this, INCLUDING Google.

        • KG

          That is not the point of Ismael’s post. It’s just that when people start saying Apple came out with it quickly vs Google is taking so long to come out with this, the difference is build vs buy.

    • CactusCat

      They’re taking time to get it right… here’s an example:

      User to Siri: “I’m hurt, call me an ambulance”
      Siri to User: “Ok, from now on, I’ll call you an ambulance”

      or in the Apple commercial, they substituted ambulance for Rock God (ultra lame)

  • Adam Jones

    I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait. I want it to teach me how to take over the world. Google seems to know how to do that already.

  • alxrock

    I want my assistant to look just like that Android in the pic.

    • Jeff Pan

      that would rock!

  • Alexander drzfr3shboialex

    My guess is that this will first be on the next Nexus which will most likely come out in Q4

    • LukeT32

      It better come to the Gnex to!

      • jonathan3579

        Google wouldn’t f**k us like Apple did to it’s users. Google > Apple

        • Chris Lewis

          lol you are allowed to say “fuck” its not illegal

          • jonathan3579

            Well, I did it to avoid moderation. :P

  • ranwanimator

    Boo! I really wanted it to be called Majel and sound just like the ship’s computer from Star Trek. I’m pretty sure Google, with all of their resources, could have pulled that off.

    • kungpaodragon

      Nah. That’d be lame like “Siri”. I think what’ll happen is you’ll have the ability to name your assistant.

      • AnthonyRyan

        that would be even better to name your assistant

        • ranwanimator

          Then I shall name her “Computer.” I still think it should be Ms. Barret Roddenberry’s voice.

  • Joel

    For something this ambitious I can forgive a late launch. The more time they have to work on something like this the better.

    What tasks would I like to see it accomplish?…Well I work with calenders and sceduling appointments alot, I should be able to book up an entire month with activites without pushing a button :)

    • Brandy

      I’m really new to Android & new to this site. I am interested in the same thing, I’m constantly setting reminders & calendar entries & would love for my “assistant” to do it for me. Question, would this be something like an app I add to my phone or do I have to buy a whole new phone? Clarification would be appreciated, thanks. By the way I think calling it Majel would be awesome!

  • Foo

    [Brain fck moment]

    What if those engines that power Majel/Assistant are already seeping into Voice Search?

    [/Brain fck moment]

  • LittleGreenDude

    As much as i cant wait for it to come out, i still wish it had a name like Majel. Assistant just seems too plain…..

    • kungpaodragon

      Nah. That’d be lame like “Siri”. I think what’ll happen is you’ll have the ability to name your assistant.

  • spazby

    Curious if this will be only on jelly bean or prior versions as well….

  • txbluesman

    Sounds like this assistant could have hand you a jelly bean….lol.

  • kungpaodragon

    Here’s what worries me. As much as we Android users know many features in iOS are implemented in Android first, whether it’s exact or something Apple expanded on. And in either case, Apple seems to always have some patent for it even though they weren’t the ones implementing the actual technology. Siri, for example, is really just Google Voice Search expanded with an engine composing human-friendly sentences and text-to-speech engine. Nothing really blows us away because, again, we’ve had voice search for some time now. The feature “voice search” is also misleading because it is capable of doing what Siri does. To get to my point, I’m afraid we’re gonna see Apple suing Google for the “Assistant” feature. Not that I think Google would lose if that does happen. But given the dough and blows Apple had sent to the patent office, who knows what could happen… Much like the whole “unlock” deal… Somehow it can be twisted to Google violated the patent by implementing a unlock mechanism based on the same principal. Yes.. I am a little bitter… :)

    Maybe someone can look into this and tell us Apple has no patent over this thing.

    • PhilH

      I believe the cofounder of Nuance has been at Google for a long time. Also Google has been quietly starting to patent stuff like the pull down notifications. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google actually has some parents to put the brakes on Siri and not the other way around.

      And I wish people would stop referring to this as an answer to Siri. Google has been working on technology like this. Siri is an answer to Google and if you ask me Apple has brought a knife to a gunfight.

      • JoAnn

        It is too late to patent notifications if they haven’t done so already. In the USA, if you have been shipping an invention in a product for more than a year, you cannot get a patent on it.

        • cwjones4

          the patent was filed back on 2009. It just hasn’t made it through the approval process yet

  • kazahani

    I work in retail management, and I am horrible unorganized. I envision my assistant being able to remind me about all of the things I keep forgetting about. I want to be able to pull it out of my pocket, tell it to remember something, and have it remind me later.

  • ndub21

    Q4 does seem really late. I have no doubt that Assistant will put SIRI to shame, but that’s a long way off. Timing is everything.

  • Vance

    I’d like Assistant to be able to dictate fully typed documents and emails. More punctuation commands. More custom dictionary/ jargon options. The ability to begin a new document and have the dictation continue until you give the command to end it. The ability to have her/him/it “read that back to me”.

  • AnthonyRyan

    This should be apart of the OS and not an add-on item.

  • Hall Lo

    Excellent! Based on how good the voice search already is, I m not surprised that the “assistant” will beat siri very easily. :D

  • JoAnn

    I’d like to know how Google is going to do this without pissing off a bunch of their business partners and programmers who have Assistant like apps in the marketplace – like VLingo, Pannuous/Jeannie, and SpeakToIt,

    Do you recall when Microsoft embedded a web browser into their OS how much grief they got over it? They got hauled into court by the very people who were their customers and developers before. It got to the point where MS had to ship a special version of Windows WITHOUT the browser just to keep the lawyers happy.

    I hope that doesn’t happen here.

  • jamal adam

    I’d love to have an Assistant.

  • nicholas sweeting

    For those who can’t wait till Q4, the best-rated (4.6*) virtual assistant on the Android Market is Everfriends, which I had the honour of working on. It’s free, so well worth downloading…

  • cwjones4

    Hells to the yes! can’t wait!

  • SimonSays

    That is one dapper android.

  • Craig

    The name “Assistant” is not as interesting to me as “Majel,” or anything else that is personal and creative. I think it’s a good idea for it to have a fun/creative name, instead of something boring and generic. Ideally it would be two syllables, max, for simplicity.

    • WlfHart

      ‘Majel’ is awesome. But barring that, ‘computer’ would still be nice. Sure it’s three syllables but worth it.

      • kye

        ‘Computer, please take away three wrong answers.’

    • CriX

      If it gets to the point where batteries are good enough so that we can always have our phones listening and waiting for some sort of name queue, it seems possible (and desirable) that we should be able to choose what the computer is called. “Computer” sounds way better than “assistant” to me, but for some reason my sister’s name “Allie” sounds less awkward than “computer” LOL. They should let us choose… this isn’t StarFleet, we’re allowed to have some more fun with it.

  • Matt Dowd

    Please don’t use the stock voice for android! And I would rather it be called Majel.

  • aranea

    This sounds more complicated that I imagined. My one concern is that if it will be able to understand different accents. I’m not a native English speaker and I know siri can’t recognize even some of the native accents (ie. Australian)

    My other hope is that unlike Apple Google won’t make Assistant exclusive to just a new device. That it should be backwards compatible with at least one Android generation.

    • Dirge

      I do believe that’s how it will be. Look at the current Voice Actions: it’s available for all Android devices runnin v.2.0+.

  • Zocker516

    I hope it not comes for Jelly Bean only, because I think my SGS2 won’t get an update. So I hope it is only an update for the Google Search and I get this for my SGS2 and ICS. When not… I buy me a SGS4 anyway!

  • Alex Belko

    At first thought I don’t need speaking assistant like siri, functionality of google voice is good enough, but then I imagined GladOS in my phone saying “You don’t have friends anyway” lol

  • CJ LaFleur

    Siri has been slayed!

  • Dirge

    Wow, amazing video. I didn’t even know Search by Image was possible! :D

  • Leo Young

    Oh Man! I can hardly wait.

  • alxrock

    I picture Android Assistant, something like this:

  • autonomousgerm

    LOL, see if you can spot the one Google employee not using a Mac at

    • Jib

      Looks like there are two, the bald guy in the green shirt (his head is in line with the monitor) and the guy in the dark green shirt on the same side but closer to where the camera is.

  • ss

    in past we don’t had a hardware to make pc assistants, but now we have hardware but we realise that even if you have hardware it’s hard to make something similar to AI.. i hope google will succeed!

  • haterontherocks

    i hope my tmobile g2x would get this.

  • Joshua

    q4 release really translates to quarter 2 2013 at the earliest because there will only be one phone for 6 months that has Jelly Bean while all the rest take forever to get the update. Nothing to really get excited about here, still MILES away!

  • Eric

    There is currently an App on the market called EVA which is the most advanced voice control their is for Android. (It beats Siri to pieces to.) It’s not meant to answer complex questions, but it allows you to fully control your phone by voice. It can do a ton of things. My hope would be that Google would integrate as much functionality as the EVA app. The problem is often corporations think so big that they forget about the little things. Here’s hoping Google doesn’t do that on this app.

  • Marshal

    Will the S3 get the google voice with jellybean update?

  • Marshal

    Will the S3 get the google voice with jellybean update, I hope so.