Google Play Music relaunched today, announcing an update that makes machine learning a bigger part of its listening experience. That means the platform will combine listeners’ individual music tastes with contextual information such as time of day and location to offer improved song recommendations. The system pulls data from other Google services like email, calendar, traffic, and even the phone motion sensor to assess what activities the listener is engaged in.
This is an awaited development for observers who followed Google’s acquisition of Songza, once a stand-alone music service which pioneered the “Concierge” type of mood/time/activity playlists, imitated by many other services including iHeartRadio, Rhapsody/Napster, and Spotify. When Google snapped up Songza, it was a reasonable presumption that the tech giant would bundle its immense user knowledge into mood/time/activity music curation. In Songza, you had to tell the service about your mood and activity. In Google’s vast brain, personal location and activity are known to some degree, especially for ecosystem users who own Android phones that can pinpoint location, keep track of calendar appointments, and even discern some activities.
There is a consumer segment which remains unhappy with ecosystem snooping. On the other side of the piracy fence, the conveniences of a clued-in personal assistant are compelling enough to sway millions of people to smart (increasingly smart!) phones. In this app update, Google is moving closer to the day when an infallible music service plays the maximally perfect audio with minimal user effort. Simon Cole, CEO of 7digital, described this ideal at a RAIN Summit as the “Entertain Me Button.”
Elias Roman, Google Play Music product manager and founder of Songza, penned a blog post introducing the revamped service. “Your workout music is front and center as you walk into the gym, a sunset soundtrack appears just as the sky goes pink, and tunes for focusing turn up at the library,” he explained.
The updated service also includes constant access to an offline playlist based on recent listening choices. The blog post positioned this feature as a way to keep listening even if a wireless signal is lost. that feature is written on the same page as the offline listening available in Pandora Plus, the new mid-tier offering from Pandora.
Google Play Music also has a redesigned home screen to feature the tunes it expects each listener to most want to hear in that moment. The service offers standard free-listening (ad-supported) and subscription (fully on-demand) user plans.