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Google targets Pinterest with new app

Google Keen screens

Google is offering a digital “home for long-term interests.”

Area 120, Google’s workshop for experimental projects, is launching Keen, a web and Android app that enables users to identify their interests and curate relevant digital content from the web and other Keen users. When users identify an interest on the app, they create a “keen,” which lets them curate content, share their collection with others, and find new content based on what they have saved. Keens can be on any topic and be private or public.

For every keen, Google applies its search functionality and machine learning technology to automatically find content related to a user’s interests. The more a user saves to a keen and organizes it, the better the recommendations become. 

Specific activities Keen users can engage in include saving interesting “gems” or links that they find helpful. Google says these bits of content act like seeds and help Keen discover more and more related content over time. Users can also follow keens that others have created and receive alerts when new things are added.

“Keen isn’t intended to be a place to spend endless hours browsing,” C.J. Adams, Google product manager and co-founder of Keen, said in a corporate blog post announcing the new app. "Instead, it’s a home for your interests: a place to grow them, share them with loved ones and find things that will help in making this precious life count.”

Currently, Keen offers no e-commerce capabilities. However, the same was true of Pinterest when it initially launched in January 2010. Pinterest has gradually added features designed to turn it into an e-commerce platform, most recently offering shopping via photo.

Google has a range of existing visually-oriented shopping features, such as Vision Product Search, which enables customers to take photos and screenshots of products from their phone and receive real-time results of similar or complementary items from a retailer’s product catalog. It is not hard to imagine Google starting to integrate some of these capabilities into Keen in the not-too-distant future.

Area 120 developed Keen in collaboration with a team at Google called People and AI Research (PAIR), dedicated to human-centered machine learning systems.


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