Google today pushed an update for its Google Search app for Android that packs a powerful new punch for Google Now. The digital assistant baked into Android 4.1 or higher now watches your inbox for boarding passes, and can delivery them to your phone as QR codes for digital check-in when it detects your proximity to an airport. That’s taking a page out of Apple’s Passbook, but with an additional step removed for an even more seamless experience, should it work as advertised.
The new version of Google Search also brings more varied local discovery options to Google Now, including suggestions for museums, movies and other activities in addition to the restaurants it mostly served before. Voice search also covers new ground, with expanded compatibility with other apps, as well as music recognition services Shazam-style, and tools for searching products for mobile comparison shopping like bar code scanning. Google Now also now incorporates Google Goggles for more relevant info when sightseeing.
The addition of automatic boarding passes is a sign of where Google could be headed with Now. There is no reason why it couldn’t surface additional payment/redemption/check-in options via QR codes and other on-screen scanning options in the future, for a wide variety of services including loyalty cards, daily deals and more.
Google seems to be folding in a lot of the more promising bits of Field Trip as it continues to grow Google Now’s feature set, which is good news for those who enjoy the service’s always available, contextual information suggestions. I’m actually a huge fan of Google Now on my Nexus 4, and am thrilled to see Google moving quickly to improve on an already impressive tool.