At an event in Mumbai today, Google as part of its Next Billion Users initiative has launched a new hyperlocal service called ‘Neighbourly’. Bringing together its awareness of local languages, coupled with natural language processing, Neighbourly is able to understand real world queries. During the demo by Google, questions were posed in Hindi, and English, with further examples in Marathi.
“Google Search got started by connecting people to information on the web. With Neighbourly, we’re finding new ways to move forward on Google’s mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” Josh Woodward, Group Product Manager on Google’s Next Billion Users team, said.
“In our research, we’ve found that most of life happens within a 1km radius of where you live, so we wanted to create a new experience for neighbours to benefit from the collective knowledge inside their neighbourhoods. And, when that happens, we hope neighbourhoods everywhere will start to feel even more neighbourly,” Woodward added.
Trusted word of mouth
Neighbourly relies on the trust we place in people from our neighbourhood. It manages to do that even in a fast-paced city lifestyle where residents and citizens are relatively insulated from face to face conversations. It uses a Q&A format to answer real-life questions. Neighbourly aims to capture audiences that are put away by groups that can get inundated by unpleasant chatter, and chain messages. Among examples were questions such as ‘where’s the fastest grocery home delivery service in Asha Nagar?’, and ‘full time maid kya charge karti hai iss area mein’.
Smart, fast and personalized
Neighbourly works with years of Google expertise to categorize and sort data. To begin with, a user simply latches on to the local neighborhood geolocation. Once you do that, you will be shown the terms around etiquette, and basic rules for respecting other users. Since Google places great emphasis on safe content, neighbors can flag inappropriate users or messages. As you enter your neighborhood within Neighbourly you will see question cards. You could answer questions or flag them if they don’t follow the community rules.
In addition to plain text queries, you can also use either of eight Indian languages besides English. Simply speak into your device’s microphone in your preferred language. Neighbourly will understand your query, and place it as a question card.
The beta version of Google Neighbourly is available starting today on the Google Play Store. It is currently only restricted to Mumbai, and is compatible with any Android smartphone running version 4.3 Jelly Bean or higher. Google has said that the app will soon be rolled out to other cities, and interested people can join a waitlist.