Google is working on a feature that would push stories relevant to a user’s location direct to their smartphones and tablets in order to build greater community bonds and encourage people to take a greater involvement in their neighbourhoods.
Google Now was one of the standout features of the latest version of the Android operating system (Jelly Bean) and is a contextually aware program that understands a user’s likes, dislikes, routine and physical location and uses that information to automatically push relevant information to his or her device.
Since its launch a year ago, it has already received a number of updates: it already has the ability to analyse e-mail messages and calendar appointments in order to automatically serve up a weather forecast or traffic news that could mean being late for an appointment.
Earlier this month, it also rolled out beyond Android devices as a standalone app for Apple’s iPhones and iPads. And now Google is planning to add local news into the already growing mix of features its offers.
Already being tested in closed beta — meaning that only Google employees and invited individuals are trying it out — Johanna Wright, Google’s vice-president of search and assist, says that if the feature is officially rolled out, it will serve up news on a “hyper-local” level. That could mean a report specific to a street corner, rather than to an area code or city.
As she explained in an interview with Quartz, its ultimate goal will be to teach people more about their neighborhoods and maybe even get them actively involved in their communities.
“It teaches me things about my neighbourhood. For example, I found out Miss Mexico came to my son’s school, I saw that [the local] Chipotle was giving out burritos, and someone was stabbed in the park near my house. It’s very, very targeted to you and your interests.”