Google is working on building a social-gaming startup, which will look to onboard users based on their phone numbers, Bloomberg reported.
The report cited sources saying that Arcade, the social-gaming platform, is being led by Michael Sayman, 21, an engineer who started his career as an intern at social networking site Facebook at 17, before joining Alphabet’s Google last year.
Arcade, which is expected to debut this summer, will most likely be a trivia-driven game, the report said. Google has confirmed Arcade’s existence and said that it could be an app that would allow people to play games on their smartphone with friends. “It is a very early experiment so there aren’t many details to share right now,” a Google spokesperson told Bloomberg.
The report further said that Arcade was part of Google’s Area 120 – a division that allows select staff to work on small startups within the organisation.
Interestingly, Arcade is trying to onboard users via phone numbers, which is understandable as the company has no social network of its own. Therefore, opening the platform up for others would mean sharing data with them. Bloomberg cited the person saying that the internet giant was considering this as a social media investment because once it goes live, the number of users on the platform and their interaction is going to mimic actions of a social media site.
The report said that Sayman was hired by the company as a product manager for the Google Assistant team, but was later shifted to Area 120. Sayman gets a budget to hire staff, the person was quoted as saying.
In a separate development, the company has also opened an investment programme that will help companies and developers working on its digital assistant range of products and solutions.
“This new programme will consist of several components, such as investment capital from Google, to provide additional financial resources for the development, hiring and management of these startups, advice from Google engineers, product managers, and design experts to share technical guidance and product development feedback, besides Google partnership programmes that provide early access to upcoming features and tools,” Sanjay Kapoor, vice-president, corporate development and Nick Fox, vice president of product, Google, wrote in a blog post.
“Under the programme, startups will be able to bring their products to the market as quickly as possible and access the Google Cloud Platform. These companies and developers will also get promotional support through Google marketing channels to drive greater awareness for the features and functionality of new applications,” they added.
The internet giant has already invested in four companies – GoMoment, Edwin, BotSociety and Pulse Labs – under the new programme.
GoMoment is the creator of Ivy, a 24/7 concierge for hotel guests, capable of providing instant answers to common questions like “Is there a happy hour at the bar tonight?” or “Can I get a late checkout?” Anything requiring human expertise is sent to the hotel staff and tracked for quick and reliable resolution. Ivy is used by leading hotels, including Caesars Palace, Treasure Island and Hard Rock.
Edwin, on the other hand, is a personal English tutor powered by AI. Edwin prepares students looking to take English as a foreign language tests, such as TOEFL. Edwin combines advanced AI technology with the expertise of professional English teachers to tailor every lesson to individual needs, learning style and pace, Google said.
BotSociety has created a tool that allows developers to design, prototype and user test voice interfaces. More than 30,000 developers, worldwide, have designed their voice assistant applications using Botsociety, Google said.
Pulse Labs is a startup that helps developers test their applications with real people, acquire in-depth insights, and use that feedback to refine the experience.