From the moment Google CEO Sundar Pichai set foot on stage, it was clear that bigger and bolder announcements were going to come from I/O, Google’s annual developer conference, than Facebook’s F8 (although Facebook had a few good ones, too). Unhindered by the shadow of congressional hearings, and perhaps seeing the chance to jump into the limelight, Google made over 100 announcements—many of them jaw dropping. This perfectly worded headline by the Verge pretty much sums it all up: At I/O, Google showed its willingness to change and shape our lives.

Jokes about fixing the cheese in the hamburger emoji quickly gave way to major announcements that could fundamentally shift how we interact with our mobile devices. It seems Google has become very concerned about how much time we all waste, sending self-regulating tools and AI to our rescue. While the I/O announcements are far too prolific and varied for us to cover here, we hand-selected the ones we think will matter most to real estate marketing.

So batten down the hatches, Google’s got big plans for us mere mortals.


1. Google’s Duplex Lands with a Bang and a Mm-Hmm

By now you’ve likely heard the news: we will soon have personal robot assistants phoning around town for our appointments. In an impressive display, Google Assistant called a hair salon and had a human-sounding scheduling conversation with the receptionist, pausing at just the right times and even dropping an “mmhmm” at a natural conversational moment.

Duplex will soon support Google Assistant in performing tasks such as restaurant reservations, booking hair appointments, and obtaining business hour changes such as during holidays. Right now, Duplex is limited to appointments and (possibly) confirming hours of operation. But we all know Google has bigger plans. Since we started writing this Special Edition, the web has exploded with articles discussing serious ethical questions—along with raised hackles.

What This Means For Real Estate Marketing
Perhaps you’ve heard of agents who spent years, even decades, refining their phone demeanour until they were able to convert leads with surgical precision. Perhaps that agent is you.

For a while now, we’ve heard many agents lament the demise of phone calls, mourning that loss of connection as inquiries moved to email, then to SMS, and now to bots and other AI assistants. In light of that, and along with our clients, we’ve been working to perfect that language of automation—if there’s one thing we’re certain of, it’s that these interactions will continue to grow. We’re also fairly certain that, within a couple of years, if your answer a call from a new lead, it will likely be a robot rather than a human on the other end of the phone. How will you respond? Hopefully your AI assistant will know just how.


2. Get (Email) Smart

With over 1.2 billion active users on Gmail, Google sees a lot of emails. And rest assured, AIs read every. Single. One.  So it comes as no surprise that Google’s ready to that data to good use. An extension of Smart Reply, Google’s Smart Compose uses machine learning to suggest phrases as soon as you begin typing an email. Operating in the background and able to recognize context, it offers suggestions to complete sentences and messages in near entirety. Users only have to hit tab to select any options and the text auto-populates.

Unlike that annoying friend who zealously (and incorrectly) completes your sentences, having Gmail partially write your emails might be pretty great. Smart Reply will roll out on personal Gmail first, then within G Suite in the next few months.

What This Means For Real Estate Marketing
Knowing the right thing to say—and exactly how to say it—is a big deal for those of us in sales and marketing. And while Duplex seems to have voice communication covered, Smart Compose looks to ensure our written words are equally managed. It won’t be long until this tool evolves from mere convenience into effectiveness. Think of it this way–if G Suite could write better lead converting emails in a shorter amount of time, would you embrace it? Of course you would. For now, Smart Compose is focused on basic text suggestions based on your prior correspondence. But lest we forget, Google knows pretty much everything about us. So it’s not much of a leap to see a future where they’re helping us understand how we should be saying something for optimal engagement, not just what we say.


3. Google Maps Goes Social (Like Just About Everything Else)

For much of recorded history, maps have defined our worldview. And in the age of the Internet, Google showed their understanding of this early on, ploughing billions of dollars into mapping our world. In Google’s continued question for global domination, Maps are about to get a whole lot more resourceful.

Google clearly intends to sink the likes of Yelp and Foursquare by adding social dimensions to the Google Maps experience. For starters, Google Maps is incorporating a new “For You” tab. This lets you follow specific neighbourhoods, recommending new businesses and restaurants based on your previously established tastes and what’s trending in those areas you care about. “Your Match” uses machine learning to give new places a personalized score, predicting what you’ll like based on what you already enjoy. Google Maps will even let you coordinate with friends, shortlisting and selecting a restaurant for dinner in real time.

In Google Maps’ continued obsession with our three-dimensional world, augmented reality information will start to be layered over existing street views. This technology combines your camera and AR elements, creating a live feed in which directions and building/business information are overlaid. Point your camera in any direction and begin an interactive, AR-guided experience. They even have arrows and a cute little fox to ensure you end up just where you (or perhaps Google) wanted.

What This Means For Real Estate Marketing
How frequently do you think buyers and sellers look at maps to try and understand a home’s neighbourhood? Odds are every time. Without fail. And so, as Google jumps into personality matching within Google Maps, it could eventually tell real estate consumers what neighbourhood is the best fit for them—matching their lifestyle to places and activities in an given area.

Once this recommendation engine is nicely tuned, we’ll be walking down streets and notifications will appear in augmented reality with all the things Google thinks we should care about—open houses included? Remember bygone Google Glass, anyone? Cue Google Lens…


4. Google Lens, Always Looking Out For You

We’ve tended to regard our Smartphone cameras as image-capturing devices. How naive of us. It’s becoming oh so clear that our cameras are eyes for our computers. In the words of Aparna Chennapragada, VP of Product for AR and VR, “this is an example of how the camera is not just answering questions, but it is putting the answers right where the questions are.” From recognizing and translating text to creating matches between an observed object and its online identity, Google will be giving us ample reasons to open the aperture. And Google Lens will be waiting to look through—assuming you’re on an Android device, that is (coming to iOS soon).

Google Lens’ “Style Match” feature dips Google’s hand into the retail cookie jar. See a lamp at your friend’s house that you like? Simply point your phone at it and you can obtain not just the brand or style, but shopping links to that very lamp and/or one similar (assuming it’s able to recognize those). Lens will also have a “real-time finder” that analyzes images even before you give your camera app that consensual tap.

But Lens’ developments aren’t limited to retail items. The image recognition tool stands to offer users more information about, well, nearly everything: books, plants, animals, works of art, and more. By taking a photo, you give Lens the opportunity to use machine learning to process the pixels and then provide you with more details—along with any relevant search tags. Google even showed off Lens’ ability to determine dog breeds.

And, friends, that’s not all. You may soon find yourself pointing your camera at a poster of a musician to see a music video. Or show times from a movie poster. You will even be able to add an event to your calendar from a flyer or billboard.

What This Means For Real Estate Marketing

Along with everything mentioned above, Google Lens can offer users building information. From sourcing architectural styles and property details to linking a photo of a home for sale directly to the listing, expect to see a lot more people pointing their phones at buildings—ideally at your listings. And when that happens, expect that well-designed listing landing pages will become even more important at converting leads than they already are.

5. Tour de Force, Lens Style

If you’ve ever dreamt of making a VR tour using imagery from Google Street View or your own 360 photos, then today is your lucky day. Tour Creator enables anyone with a story to tell to build immersive 360 tours. In fact, the headline on Google’s demonstration gallery is aimed squarely at us: “See what teachers to real estate agents have made.” The tours are viewable on any device from mobile & desktop to even the most basic VR viewers like Google Cardboard.

What This Means For Real Estate Marketing
Of course, creating virtual tours is nothing new to real estate. They’ve been around a long time and are frequently baked into packages from photographers. However, those tours are typically limited to a house’s interior, foregoing the narrative of its neighbourhood entirely—an aspect vital to buyers, and now easily included. So. Who’s going to tour first?

6. Google Photos Has Us Made in the Shade

Once again enlisting the help of AI, Google is bringing machine learning to give users photographic superpowers within Photos. The new app can separate subjects from backgrounds in photos, colourize black & white photos, and even highlight a single colour in an otherwise monochromatic image. Most useful for the business world, users can at long last easily convert photos of documents into PDFs. Finally.

What This Means For Real Estate Marketing
Quality photos have long been the key to social media engagement, particularly on Instagram. So any big advancements in making more stunning images, more easily, is a huge coup for real estate agents looking to up their social media game. Don’t believe us? Split test a before-and-after augmented image, and see the results. We dare you.

7. Assistant and YouTube are Coming to Smart Displays

Not content with the mere mobile phone or its own voice-based devices, Google also wants in on the smart display market too. And this comes in a year when sales of Google’s Assistant finally outstripped Amazon’s Echo. Recognizing that users are increasingly accustomed to having a smart device in their homes, Google is looking to extend Assistant beyond a voice-only interface. They’re creating a system where users can ask questions and receive visual displays for actions. Google’s first Smart Displays are set to launch in July, offering a system where the Google Assistant will handle verbal questions and YouTube will support with visual information. And Google appears so confident they’ll corner the market, that they proactively pulled YouTube from Amazon’s Echo months ago.

What This Means For Real Estate Marketing
As we begin to not just talk to voice-based smart homes devices, but also visually interact with them, we expect app developers to create more immersive experiences specifically tailored to these devices. Your real estate franchise has a website, right? And an iOS and Android app (we hope)? So the question you should be asking yourself is: when will my franchise start writing “actions” for Google Assistant that triggers my real estate content?

Let us know if you need an answer.

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