Case Study: Relatedness and Google Now

Case Study-A couple of months ago, I switched my cell phone from an iPhone to an Android. While it’s been an adjustment, I’ve come to really like my new phone (shout out to the FANTASTIC camera on the Samsung Galaxy S6, which has taken some nicer shots than my DSLR in head-to-head competition). One of the apps I really like is my Google Now widget. And no wonder–it’s a great example of a program that supports user relatedness (one of the three universal human needs described by self-determination theory) by personalizing the experience.

Google Now for iOS
Google Now for iOS

Google Now is one of those apps that might strike me as creepy if it weren’t so useful. Essentially, Google Now integrates information (with my permission) from my Google searches, app usage, Gmail content, and physical location to show me “cards” with relevant-right now information. Since I’ve signed into Chrome on my different devices, it can even pull in information from my laptop and my work phone. Examples include:

  • Sports scores for last night’s game (Go Sox!)
  • Today’s weather
  • Travel time from my current location home, assuming that I take my normal mode of transportation (walking)
  • Traffic near my location (smart enough to only do this when I’m away from home)
  • News stories related to topics I read about
  • Suggested activities for trips I’m planning
  • Tracking information for my packages
My Google Now widget as of 7/7/15
My Google Now widget as of 7/7/15

Sometimes Google Now makes wrong inferences about my interests (such as when it assumes that because I clicked on something once I’m interested in reading about it regularly, which is why you should never click on a story about Kylie Jenner while logged into Chrome). Fortunately, it lets me correct these mistakes (it was delightful to create a personal anti-Kardashian setting!). For the most part, the information Google Now provides is relevant, personal, and timely, and it gets better the more I use it.

Google Now has gotten to know me, and it continues to adjust as it learns my habits in more detail. In doing so, it supports my need for relatedness and ensures I’m motivated to keep on clicking.