May 19 AT 7:52 PM Brooks Barnard 0 Comments

Google Allo: Have your robot call my robot and we’ll do lunch


If you haven’t been following all the news from Google I/O from yesterday, Google announced an all new messaging app named Allo. Allo is the French word for hello and the app is going to be in addition to messaging apps already available from Google; Hangouts and Messenger. What’s different about Allo is that it’s a smart messaging app. Google says Allo is “deeply integrated machine learning, [it] has smart features to keep your conversations flowing and help you get things done.”

And I’m not sure how I feel about Allo. Allow me to continue to explain what this smart messaging app does and why I feel weird about it…

Google AlloSimilar to Google’s newest email app, Inbox by Gmail, Allo will use machine learning to learn what you type and how you respond to your friend’s messages. In turn, Allo will be learning what your friends are typing and how they’re responding to you. Google provides this feature “so you can respond to messages without typing a single word”. The more you use Allo, the better it will learn how you write and the better its predictions will be.

I’m not sure I actually have an issue with Allo, but I’m trying to work out how I feel about the future of mobile messaging. Theoretically, I could be writing a friend in Allo, and only be getting canned responses from their machine learning model. Maybe that’s fine, but I’m probably writing my friend to talk to my friend, not their machine learning model. Theoretically, someday my machine learning model could just have a conversation with my friend’s machine learning model and we wouldn’t need to put any information into the messaging at all. And maybe that’s okay?

I just can’t help but feel like the future Google is creating with Allo could be so impersonal. Don’t get me wrong. I use Google extensively and feel like it saves me so much time and effort in many different aspects of my life, but I don’t feel *so* busy that I find myself wishing I could respond to my family and friends without typing a single word. I like to think my messages and responses have reason and thought, not just the quickest words I could find to respond with. Or not the things I apparently always say.

I’m not saying Google or Allo is going to force us to be impersonal and communicate only with predicted messages. Clearly one can type any message they want in Allo. But any time you type a message to a friend in Allo is your friend going to be writing their response? Or will it be a machine?

I appreciate the convenience that Google is trying to provide to our lives, but I don’t know how I feel about having conversations with machine learning models.

What do you think?

Let us know your thoughts regarding Allo and the future by commenting below!

Brooks is an engineer living in the Bay Area recently dislocated from the Great Northwest. He's an Android enthusiast who decided to start doing something (productive?) with his countless hours Android modding and theming. He has a hot wife, is a father of three, an avid F1 fan, and enjoys watching sports when he can. His current devices include the Nexus 6 and 7 (2103) both running stock roms and may or may not be rooted. You can follow Brooks on Twitter @Brooks_Barnard.

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