Google has lit the news canon at its annual India event which takes place in New Delhi today. The company just introduced a subtle new AI-powered feature for its Google Go search app: website reading. You can bet this is the first of many product announcements to come out today.
The U.S. firm introduced Google Go — which is essentially a data-light search app for emerging markets — last year, and this new feature is designed to increase its appeal across India, particularly for non-English audiences.
A quick refresher: Hindi and English are the official national languages of India, but its billion-plus population is hugely diverse with more than 20 other languages recognized. The majority of those living in urban India are comfortable with English, but companies are increasingly aware that they need to cater to other tongues in order to offer even basic online services to the rest (majority) of the country.
Google isn’t alone in adopting this approach — it is actually a relative laggard — but now it is trying to help translate the web with this new Google Go feature.
Google said the addition can make website reading just like watching TV or listening to the radio. The feature reads out text in one of 28 supported languages whilst highlighting each word on the page as it goes. The firm said it uses AI to seek out the most important information on a web page, and also to play it back in each language.
There are obvious use cases for activities that pull attention away from reading, such as cooking, but more widely the feature is seen as part of Google Go’s general approach to making information more accessible to those who are relatively inexperienced when it comes to using the internet.
“The new feature is inspired by user research in India, where we heard from people how important it is to
understand information effortlessly. Especially for people coming online for the first time, consuming
long-form text on a small device can be difficult and time-consuming. With this new feature, you can just
press play and follow along,” the company wrote in a statement.
It added that it is looking into ways to add the feature to other Google apps in the future, so stayed tuned.