At one time, Google Assistant could only be found on a handful of smartphones. Today, Google Assistant is available on 500 million devices — smartphones, smart speakers, smart watches, tablets, smart televisions, and a broad range of home appliances and cars.
But what about the billions of people in the world who still don’t have a smartphone?
Enter My Line, a phone number you can call to ask Google Assistant questions in parts of Colombia — without a smartphone or computer or even the internet.
When a person calls 6000913, they receive a welcome greeting and invitation to ask any question. After posing a question, users may hear prompts like “Do you have more questions?” or “Feel free to hang up whenever you’re done,” Cainkade Studio CEO Jeremy Landis told VentureBeat in a phone interview.
Cainkade Studio works with Amazon, Comcast, and Samsung, as well as older companies that use conversational AI to remove friction in the customer support experience.
Since the launch of the My Line beta last month, 35,000 calls have been made to Google Assistant via My Line, Landis said.
Cainkade managing director Eric Elia believes voice has the potential to be more equitable and inclusive than other forms of technology.
“Our industry tends to leave people behind who may not have the ability to access the latest technology,“ Cainkade Studio managing director Eric Elia told VentureBeat. “When we started working on this project, we were surprised this didn’t already exist in the market. It was kind of like the missing Google feature in some ways for this product or for Amazon, and would be something nice they would have offered directly. So we’re kind of happy to fill the gap there, but overall this is an incredibly rapidly changing space.”
Smartphones as we know them today have only existed for about a decade, but roughly two-thirds of adults worldwide are expected to own a smartphone this year. According to forecasts by media planning and analytics company Zenith, in places like the Netherlands or Taiwan more than 90 percent of adults own a smartphone. About 70 percent of U.S. adults own a smartphone. In Colombia, 53 percent of adults own a smartphone.
My Line is made possible with the Google Assistant SDK, middleware created by Cainkade to take the call, and Twilio’s service to convert speech to text.
My Line is the creation of a collaboration between Cainkade and the MullenLowe agency that was initiated by the Colombian government to enable technology for poor or rural residents, Landis said.
Cainkade has been approached to launch Google Assistant phone calls for refugees fleeing from Venezuela to Colombia on foot, and if initial tests in Colombia go well, the company may look to expand Google Assistant phone calls to other nations.