Google’s Area 120 team, an indoor incubator that makes experimental apps and services, has launched Keen: a would-be Pinterest rival that pulls on the search giant’s machine learning expertise to curate topics. Available today on the online and Android, co-founder CJ Adams says Keen aims to be an alternative to “mindlessly” browsing online feeds.
GOOGLE WANTS TO KNOW: WHAT ARE YOU KEEN ON?
“On Keen you say what you would like to spend longer on, then curate content from the online and other people you trust to assist make that happen,” writes Adams during a blog post. “You make a ‘keen,’ which may be about any topic, whether it’s baking delicious bread reception, stepping into birding, or researching typography. Keen allows you to curate the content you’re keen on, share your collection with others and find new content supported what you’ve got saved.”
This is obviously not a very revelatory pitch. almost every social media feed you browse is trying to personalize its content to your interests in a method or another. And Pinterest has already captured the hobby-focused side of this market with its pinboard-style visual design — two characteristics that Keen is trying to imitate.
So what does Keen have that Pinterest doesn’t? Well, for one it’s Google’s expertise in machine learning, which Adams says will surface “helpful content associated with your interests.”
“Even if you’re not an expert on a subject, you’ll start curating a keen and save a couple of interesting ‘gems’ or links that you simply find helpful,” says Adams. “These bits of content act like seeds and help keen discover more and more related content over time.”
But it’s not like Pinterest doesn’t invest heavily in AI also. And while machine learning’s ability to seek out patterns in data outstrips that of humans in many areas, when it involves niche hobbies and interests, I’d wager that the collective intuitions of an enormous and engaged (dare I say, keen?) userbase will outstrip those of the machines for the nonce.
IT’S NOT CLEAR WHAT DATA KEEN IS COLLECTING
At any rate, it’s interesting to ascertain Google pushes its machine learning systems into more varied applications. Especially people who appear to be they’re trying to foster users’ interests in rewarding hobbies, instead of algorithms that drive people to greater engagement without caring what it’s they’re actually engaging with.