Despite all the advances in location-based computing and smartphones, so far there has been very little done to take advantage of these technologies when it comes to the news we consume — in part because none of the traditional media companies have put much effort into it. But now one major news provider is experimenting with exactly that: according to a report at Quartz, Google is testing a local news product as part of its Google Now service.
Christopher Mims, a writer with the Atlantic Media-owned business news site, says a Google staffer mentioned the beta test of location-based news during an interview with him recently about what new search products the company was working on, including aspects of its Google Now service. According to Johanna Wright, vice president of search and assist:
“One thing we’re testing right now is a very local hyper-local news card, which is really useful — it teaches me things about my neighborhood. 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.”
Google Now is the search giant’s version of an automated personal assistant similar to Apple’s Siri, except the Google program comes in the form of information cards that slide up on a user’s smartphone based on what Google knows about the user and their needs. So, for example, the service can see that a user’s plane flight is delayed and advise them before they leave for the airport, or it can check the route and let them know if there is a lot of traffic.
Some people find Google Now disturbing, since it relies on knowing everything about a user — including their search history, email contacts, phone calls and other information — so there may be some resistance to having the company suddenly start suggesting local news of the kind Wright is describing. But as I discovered when I tried Google Now on a trip, it can also be extremely useful, and local news would likely fall into that category as well.
One place where location-based news would fit especially well — particularly the broader version of “news” that the Google VP is using, which consists of any information that might be interesting or useful to a user — is in Google Glass, the company’s experimental wearable display system. Sliding up a series of cards on a smartphone screen is handy, but having location-specific news items pop up in front of a user’s eyes would be even better.
Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Flickr user Thomas Hawk