Allo, Allo? Google brings AI to battle against WhatsApp

21 Sep 20169 Shares

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With Allo, internet giant Google is wading into the social messaging craze. Image: BigLike Images/Shutterstock

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Internet giant Google is wading into the social messaging craze that has signalled the death knell for traditional SMS, taking on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger with a new AI-based messaging tool called Allo.

Google Allo is a smart messaging app that is based on users’ phone numbers, so they can use it to get in touch with anyone in their phonebook. It can be used on both iOS and Android devices.

It is also deeply integrated with deep learning, so the more users use it the more it improves.

For example, Allo has a Smart Reply feature, which suggests one-tap responses to questions like “Coming for dinner?” with a quick “Yup.”

‘When you chat in Incognito mode, messages have end-to-end encryption and additional privacy features like discreet notifications and message expiration’
– AMIT FULAY, GOOGLE

Or it may be able to suggest a Smart Reply based on what’s going on in a photo. For example, an image of a pet might generate the Smart Reply, “Aww cute!”

Snapping at the heels of rivals

Not just an attack on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, Google’s Allo is also taking a shot at Snapchat in terms of photos, emojis and stickers.

Google Allo stickers

Google Allo stickers. Image: Google

Users can scribble on photos, and Google has worked with independent artists and studios to create 25 custom sticker packs.

Unlikely to be cheering on the latest development are the telecoms operators, who view services like Allo and WhatsApp with increasing concern as users migrate away from traditional text messaging (SMS) to over-the-top services.

Google Allo Ink

Google Allo Ink. Image: Google

Where the AI kicks in

Not only will Allo come with a machine-learning feature that learns more about each users’ individual style of communication, Google will be bundling in a preview edition of Google Assistant, the internet giant’s new AI platform.

With a Google Assistant in Allo, users can have a conversation with Google to get things done, such as learning how to cook sushi, getting answers, booking restaurants, sharing videos and more.

Consider it Google’s take on Apple’s Siri, only within a chat app.

Incognito mode guarantees end-to-end encryption

In May, at its annual I/O shindig, Google waxed lyrical about how Allo could be a bulwark for privacy at a time when rivals like Apple were feeling the heat from the FBI.

Allo was trumpeted as a new dawn, because it would have an option for users to send messages with end-to-end encryption and messages that wouldn’t be stored indefinitely.

Allo’s Incognito mode is fully end-to-end encrypted. “When you chat in Incognito mode, messages have end-to-end encryption and additional privacy features like discreet notifications and message expiration,” Amit Fulay, group product manager for Google Allo, explained.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com