Google hasn’t had the most visible presence in the region over the past decade or so but that doesn’t mean they don’t know the value this region holds globally. When I first heard about the Google for MENA event announcement, I was really hoping that it would tell us about Google hardware finally making it to the UAE, but nonetheless they had some great announcements at their largest event in the region to date.
Lino Cattaruzzi, Managing Director for Google in the Middle East and North Africa, said: “Every day, people in the Middle East and North Africa turn to Google for help, to get things done and to learn new things. Over the years, we’ve improved how our products work for in Arabic, whether that was on Search, Assistant, Maps or YouTube. We are committed to making our products more helpful to people in the Middle East and North Africa, and to scale our digital skills program to open opportunities for more people.”
Here’s everything you need to know about the announcements that took place today.
A richer, more visual Search experience in Arabic
Visual Search has been a part of Google’s ‘English’ experience for a while now. The inclusion of Arabic with this feature enables larger access for the arabic-speaking audience in the region.
If you don’t know what ‘visual search’ is, it’s the little box that shows below your search while using Google which displays information such as movie timings, music and sports. So if for example, you search for Mo Salah on Google, it will give you a little box with the most requested information about him and now it will do so in Arabic.
Another new feature announced at the event was the introduction of ‘Cameos’. The feature allows public personalities, actors and artists to post videos on the Search homepage where they answer popular questions addressed to them.
Google Assistant in 15 Arab countries
Google’s Voice Assistant has been a part of my life for years now. Asking for basic tasks such as setting alarms or reminders, making calls, switching on apps for music or videos, etc have been made seamless thanks to the Assistant.
Now the Assistant will be available in Arabic in 15 more countries in the region. United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Mauritania will join Saudi Arabia and Egypt which already received the feature earlier in 2019.
Updates on Google Maps
Google Maps has had a continuous growth in the region for years now. One of the big annoucements of the Google for MENA event was the ‘Stay Safe’ feature on Google Maps. Stay Safe is a feature that gives users an “off-route alert” when a driver has deviated from the suggested route by more than 500 meters. The feature also allows users to share live trip updates with friends and family, if necessary.
Another major update at the event today came as an Egypt-specific announcement which was the introduction of ‘Motorcycle mode’ in the country. The feature will help Egyptian motorcyclists navigate traffic and avoid congested routes. The feature is optimised for motorcycles and shows the smaller vehicles faster routes which they can navigate.
$1 million grant in digital skills
Google.org is regranting Injaz, an NGO that specializes in youth training, $1 million (Dh3.67 million) to scale its digital skills trainings in Arabic and reach a further 100,000 people in 2020. This is the second grant being given to the organisation which has achieved similar goals with its previous grant.