What does Google Now have in common with the Large Hadron Collider, the Toyota Prius and the Curiosity rover currently blasting rocks with lasers on Mars? All four have won Popular Science's prestigious Innovation of the Year designation after Android's eerily predictive virtual assistant snagged the title this year, besting a bevy of contenders that includes Windows 8 and Udacity.
Google Now's ability to learn your behavior, predict your needs and preemptively provide information that you are likely to find useful earned the software the vaunted award.
"Google Now draws a distinct technological line," Popular Science's Jacob Ward writes. "On the side you’re on now, you tell your devices what you want to do. On the far side, the devices do the telling. Google Now is waiting for you over there. It’s the first virtual assistant that truly anticipates your needs."
The Google team responded to the honor by posting a short interview with Google Now architects Baris Gultekin, Andrew Kirmse and Ben Gomes on the Android Google+ page. The trio explains how Google Now took root -- as yet another "20 percent project" -- and talk about their favorite aspects of the program. One choice quote, from Baris Gultekin:
When you’ve got a context-aware phone and thousands of computers working for you, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting information you may need, like the traffic between here and your next meeting, or the fact that there’s an awesome photo spot three blocks away.
The initial version of Google Now had a fairly limited scope, as we noted in our review of Android 4.1, a.k.a. Jelly Bean. The Android 4.2 update found on new Nexus devices expands its reach with a bevy of new card types, including events, packages, restaurant reservations, and flight and hotel info.
Congratulations to the Android team! Now, it would be nice if phone and tablet makers would get on the ball and start pushing out Android 4.1 or 4.2 updates to bring Google Now to the world. According to Google's most recent stats, only 2.7 percent of all Android devices rock a Jelly Bean version of the operating system, which is needed to run Google Now.