Tech: Google joins AI camera wars (GOOGL, FB, SNAP)
At its annual I/O conference keynote on Wednesday, Google introduced a new technology, Google Lens, which leverages machine learning to provide information and context about what the smartphone camera sees, effectively turning it into a powerful search portal.
The feature also suggests actions for the user to take related to the context of the image. Google gave a demo of the new Lens technology in action at I/O by pointing a smartphone camera to a storefront. From this, Lens was able to pull up the business' name, rating, and listing information.
Google Lens will help the company grab a stake in the quickly growing smartphone camera market. Numerous hardware entities and digital media platforms are ramping up their efforts in the smartphone camera space as it becomes an increasingly crucial portal and tool for a range of tasks.
- On the hardware side, Samsung, the number one manufacturer of Android devices by shipments, integrated a robust camera search capability into its latest flagship smartphone line. Apple is expected to have significant AR camera updates in its next launch, which could be similar to Google's and Samsung's products.
- On the social media side, messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Snapchat, have been working to make their camera capabilities more robust as they anticipate photo- and video-sharing to eventually to replace text as the main mode of communication.
Further, consumers are becoming accustomed to using the camera for a range of tasks, including depositing checks, taking a selfie for authentication, and communicating with friends and family. The camera as an interface is primed for adoption by consumers and businesses for a few key reasons:
- Images and video offer more context. Images contain more context and richer information than other forms of input like text entered on a keyboard, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel wrote in a letter to investors.
- This extra context can be delivered with less effort. Photos require less time and interaction with the phone to get across the same, or more, information.
- People are more likely to react to and engage with images and video because they can process them more quickly and alter them. The addition of filters and stickers that can be attached to videos and photos makes them much more engaging than text.
Looking ahead, adoption of the camera-first interface could help users transition to the “next smartphone” — likely an augmented reality (AR) wearable. While the smartphone will be the primary connected device for the foreseeable future, companies like Google are likely preparing for the next wave of technology, one that will rely on voice and images, rather than text, as the primary modes of interaction.
The communications market is in the midst of an all-out war. The deluge of messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Viber, have over-run the segment traditionally owned by SMS and a massive revenue generator for wireless carriers.
And consumers are beginning to view these chat apps not as messaging platforms but as portals to the internet. This is threatening the control Google and Apple have over the mobile ecosystem via Android and iOS. And while Apple addressed this concern with the introduction of iMessage in 2011, Google has largely left Android’s messaging capabilities up to phone makers and carriers to deal with.
For their part, device manufacturers are looking for the newest technology to make their products more appealing than the next vendor’s, as the smartphone market becomes increasingly competitive. Their hunger for improved native messaging capabilities is one of the contributing forces driving the evolution of native messaging.
An emerging messaging standard called Rich Communications Services (RCS) is showing promise as a solution for these players. Google is wagering that RCS will make Android more competitive with iOS while improving the attractiveness of the OS's native messaging client compared with chat apps.
Laurie Beaver, research analyst for BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on the Android messaging evolution that explores how Google, carriers, and OEMs can take advantage of the new standard to drive revenue, increase user engagement, and improve the overall messaging experience. Finally, it looks at the target markets for RCS and the required steps to drive adoption.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:
- An emerging tech standard called Rich Communication Service (RCS) will power Android's next-generation native messaging app, giving Android smartphone users a more powerful alternative to SMS.
- RCS will enable Android Messaging users to send larger, higher-quality images, as well as share their location information and make video calls by default. Android users currently rely on over-the-top messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to access these features.
- The strategic implications of Google's embrace of RCS are profound, making Android “stickier” and giving it a competitive edge.
- Adopting RCS will have knock-on effects across the mobile ecosystem. Because Android's user base is so massive, these may be profound and vary from player to player.
In full, the report:
- Explains what RCS is and why it's important.
- Explores the different ways Google, carriers, developers, and phone makers can access, utilize, and distribute content via RCS.
- Outlines the steps needed for encourage RCS adoption by global carriers and phone makers.
- Looks at the potential barriers that could limit the growth, adoption, and use of RCS.
- And much more.
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