By Elton Gomes
Google has announced that it will release its Neighbourly, its India-only app that had so far been introduced only in a testing phase, across India. It is the brainchild of Google’s Next Billion Users team, and helps people source local information from their neighbours.
The Neighbourly app launched its beta version in Mumbai and Jaipur in May 2018. It makes it easier for people in a city to ask questions and find reliable and relevant answers directly from their neighbours. It works in English and eight other Indian languages.
During beta testing in Mumbai and Jaipur, Google noted that many people asked whether they could join different neighbourhoods. This feedback has been taken into account and has resulted in the addition of features such as automatic suggestions about the nearest neighbourhood, switching between multiple neighbourhoods, personalised questions, advice on how to ask response-attracting questions, and giving ‘Top Neighbour” status.
“Early learnings and user feedback from these markets led to helpful insights. Many people, for example, asked to be able to join different neighbourhoods — one where they live and one where they work. These have now been incorporated,” said Ben Fohner, senior product manager at Google’s Next Billion Users team, PTI reported.
Amongst other questions, Google said that users were asking about anything — right from the source of a strong LPG smell to why there were elephants on the road.
“In our research, we’ve found that most of life happens within a 1 km radius of where you live,” Fohner said in a statement.
Fohner added that people generally prefer to take a second opinion while seeking local information. He said, “We’ve also found that when finding local information, people prefer to ask or discuss with another person. Neighbourly makes it easy to seek advice and recommendations from neighbours who know the area and have similar tastes. That’s why we built Neighbourly, that’s why people use it, and that’s why we’re so excited to make it available to everybody across India,” as per an NDTV report.
National rollout commences with Delhi and Bengaluru
The Neighbourly app will now be introduced nationally, starting with Bengaluru and Delhi, since both regions topped the wait list, Google said on Wednesday. The app was introduced in Ahmedabad, Coimbatore, Kota, Mysore, and Vizag in September.
Google further said that it also had plans to add more cities on a daily basis. It could bring the app to Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Lucknow, and Indore over the next few weeks.
What is the Neighbourly app and how do you use it?
Neighbourly is an app where Google has preferred to use human intelligence over artificial intelligence to answer your questions. It functions on the principle that neighbours are the best source for up-to-date, relevant, and accurate information about their locality.
To use Neighbourly, you need to download the app from Google Play Store. After that, you can log in using your Google ID and your first name will be selected as the username to represent you on Neighbourly.
The app does not allow your display picture to be downloaded, nor can other users zoom in on it. Only your first name remains visible, and you can also choose not to have a display picture.
You will be prompted to accept the “Neighbourly Promise“, a short code of conduct that trusts the users to maintain standards of decency on the platform. Although Google India won’t monitor the app, any inappropriate content or wrong recommendations can be flagged by users and reported, prompting Google to take relevant action.
Through Google’s voice recognition, you can dictate your question or answer directly into the app, which is akin to talking to a neighbour. The app also allows users to swipe left and right through the questions and provide relevant recommendations.
The nation-wide launch took place after Google conducted extensive user tests in the last few months wherein Google’s Next Billion Users’ team conducted a series of studies and spoke to locals in different neighbourhoods.
“The response was encouraging — especially among women, students and daily commuters — and people appreciated using their local language to ask questions to their neighbours and sharing their own knowledge with others,” Google said, as per an IANS report.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
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