Google Now comes closer to Chrome, shares TV show info

The Android version of Google's notification system can reveal background about TV you're watching, and Google is wiring Now up to Chrome, too.

Chrome prompts users if they want to receive Google Now updates through their browser. On a Mac, the prompt is through a menu-bar icon; on Windows, through a status bar icon.
Chrome prompts users to ask if they want to receive Google Now updates through their browser. On a Mac, the prompt is through a menu-bar icon; on Windows, through a status bar icon. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google Now notifications are expanding from Android to Chrome, and now the service can show information on TV shows you're watching and sales offers you've signaled interest in.

Chrome and Chrome OS have had a flag that lets people enable Google Now for weeks, but it hasn't been connected to an actual Google server. But a notification now appears that asks, "Enable Google Now Cards -- Would you like to be shown Google Now cards?"

On Windows, Chrome lets you configure the list of apps you want to let use the notifications service.
On Windows, Chrome lets you configure the list of apps you want to let use the notifications service. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

I got the prompt to enable Google Now for Chrome through a menu bar item on OS X 10.8 and a status bar item on Windows 8. Though it's not yet clear if notifications are actually active, the fact that Chrome is asking people to enable the service shows Google is making steady progress toward that goal.

On Windows, there's also a control panel for setting which Web apps and extensions are permitted to send me notifications. Along with Google Now, options on my machine include Google+ Photos, Google Documents, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Gmail, Tweetdeck, Amazon Cloud Reader, and The New York Times.

The Chrome expansion means many more people could get access to the notification technology. Google Now is designed to prompt people to find information before they actively ask for it -- for example, navigation instructions for a location they searched for on Google Maps or sports scores for a game.

Google Now is an ambitious project that holds the potential to change Google from a company that reacts to what people search for into one that actively anticipates what they need or want. It's well on its way to becoming the interface for a digital assistant -- at least for people who have lots of personal data stored in Gmail messages, Google Calendar appointments, address book entries, Google Maps saved map locations, and other Google services.

On the flip side, there's a risk that for a lot of people, notifications on PCs and mobile devices could become just another overloaded communication channel. The more often we're pestered by buzzing phones and pop-up alerts, the less attention we pay to them and the more likely it is that high-priority updates will be overlooked amid the noise. So it's good that Google offers Chrome users a way to permit or deny notifications from Web apps and on Android to enable or disable various Google Now alert channels.

Google is steadily adding new notification channels to Google Now, and Wednesday night it announced two more for the Google Search for Android app: TV and Google Offers. Google described the features thus:

TV Cards: If you have an internet-connected TV, Google Now can help unlock more information about what you're watching. Just connect your Android device to the same network that your TV is on and tap "Listen for a TV show" in Google Now. We will show you information, like where you've seen an actor in the cast before, or more information about the people mentioned in the show. So if you were watching Nik Wallenda cross the Grand Canyon this weekend, with Google Now, you could learn that the "King of the Wire" in fact holds seven Guinness World Records, including highest bike ride on a high-wire.

Google Offers: Now you can get reminders for your saved offers when you're near the store -- right when you need it. Google Now will pull up the offer so you can use it quickly and easily.

Google Offers is a service that lets people sign up for discounts from retailers. The Google Offers app for Android and iOS already could be used to alert people when they got near a store for which they'd signed up for an offer.

To use Google Now in Chrome, you have to open the "about:flags" Web page and enable the feature then restart the browser.
To use Google Now in Chrome, you have to open the "about:flags" Web page and enable the feature then restart the browser. Stephen Shankland/CNET
Google Now cards, such as these stock prices, appear underneath the search box on Android, accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
Google Now cards, such as these stock prices, appear underneath the search box on Android, accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET
 

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