In an attempt to make sure it understands what you are trying to say, or in this case, type, Google has endowed its Android keyboard with SwiftKey-like abilities. Now the kebyoard will be able to make smarter predictions and suggestions based on what it learns not only from your own habits but also from data stored on Google’s own products.
Auto-correct and its sibling Auto-suggest have been a boon and a bane on virtual keyboards, and the source of much hilarity over the Internet. Learning algorithms used in such features usually rely on a given data set, which is built up from users’ typing habits. In short, the more data it has access to, the more it can learn and, hopefully, the better it can make really personalized suggestions.
And who in the world has more data to farm than Google itself. Knowing well how Android users are most likely to use other Google apps and services, with Search, Gmail, and YouTube being the biggest culprits, it is now harnessing that fact in order to help improve the keyboard’s knowledge about the user’s habits, word preferences, and personal lingo.
Learning keyboards aren’t exactly new and is one of the selling points of SwiftKey, which is slowly making its way to iOS as well, albeit in a very unorthodox way. That said, the Google Keyboard feature gives Android users the same intelligent features without having to switch to a third-party keyboard, which may incur some costs. That is, of course, if the manufacturer doesn’t impose its own custom keyboard on its devices.
There will always be those who will raise an eyebrow whenever Google tries anything that smells like pooling information into a single point. Luckily for those who want to opt out of this feature, Google makes it easy to turn it off in the keyboard’s settings. In fact, they are actually alerted to the new feature when the Google Keyboard is used for the first time after the update, giving them a chance to disable the feature before it even starts harvesting data.