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A report in the Wall Street Journal claims that Google is working on yet another mobile messaging service, this one with a heavy focus on artificial intelligence. The platform would include a number of so-called “chatbots” for responding to user queries, according to the report — sort of an “OK Google” for in-chat assistance.

The effort is allegedly being spearheaded by vice president of communications products, Nick Fox. Two months ago, Fox was reportedly rebuffed in his attempt to purchase a small firm specializing in AI assistants — 200 Labs — whose intellectual property would have supposedly been rolled into the unnamed project.

The WSJ posits that Google, already lagging in the messaging space in comparison to rivals like Silicon Valley neighbor Facebook (Messenger, WhatsApp), China’s Tencent Holdings (WeChat), and South Korea’s Naver, by way of its Japanese branch, NHN Japan (Line), is looking to close the gap with this service, which is said to have been under development for over a year.

Functionally, the bots are tipped to answer natural language queries — a technological response to Facebook’s recently deployed, Messenger-dwelling M virtual assistant. The company is expected to open its service up to developers in hopes of encouraging a third-party bot ecosystem.

Google has long participated in the instant messaging space, with its current offering, Hangouts, having successfully completed a years-long transition from the previous primary IM solution, Google Talk. However, as with its Google+ social network, the Alphabet subsidiary has found social more difficult to crack than with some of its other core businesses.


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