Monday, July 9, 2018

Google's "Android Auto" to use Kakao Navi in Korea

Here was a very interesting tidbit burried in an article about an upcoming special launch of Android Auto service inside Kia cars.

Mock-up of Kakao Navi on Android Auto
[Done by a top Photoshop professional (me) in a resource heavy app (MS Paint) over the course of 20 seconds.] 

특히 구글은 안드로이드 오토에 구글맵 대신 ‘카카오 내비’를 채택한 것으로 알려졌다. 구글앱의 경우 지도반출 문제 등으로 정밀도가 높은 지도 데이터를 사용할 수 없어 카카오와 손잡은 것으로 풀이된다.
구글-카카오, ‘안드로이드 오토’ 韓 출시 - 지디넷코리아

So it seems that Google Maps navigation in Android Auto in South Korea will utilize navigation services provided via Kakao Navi, rather than Google's own Google Map navigation.

They cite the practical consideration that Google Maps' mapping data in Korea is hardly up to snuff for driving navigation due to that pesky National Security Law, which I personally still feel has been invoked purely from a business/competitive standpoint (not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that).

This event will be on the 12th here in just a bit so maybe there we'll also finally see English language voice navigation released for Kakao Map and Kakao Navi, which has been hinted at as a "coming soon" feature for the last few updates. Of course Naver has had an excellent English language voice navigation service for months now, which will likely incorporate into their own Android Auto type service called Away. [Promo video here]

Speculation time: Cooperation, not convergence 

Here's my opinion on all this. Of course here, these in-car Assistants are ultimately leading up to them controlling the self-driving car itself. So it would be very interesting if this blossoms in a couple years into a tourist or business person landing at Incheon International Airport, and having his Google Assistant call up a Kakao T self-driving taxi which then takes him to the hotel in his G-mail reservations via Kakao Navi navigation. I wonder if Kakao Pay would integrate with Google Wallet to pay for the service?

It sure seems like the future of Korea IT is still going to be separately-maintained domestic ecospheres. We can see Naver positioning itself to rival Google by partnering its own Clova AI assistant service with hardware from Xiaomi [Naver -Xiaomi -Youmi, business agreement on establishment of living environment AI IoT(기업) - NSP통신] to create the same kind of "smart home" that the Google Assistant along with Nest and the various other smart devices have done. This has always felt more like competition, getting a foot in where the big G hasn't yet tread. Naver's ventures in Asia are keeping it afloat and tapped into huge markets that the G hasn't dominated yet [LINE, Key to Naver’s Future Growth - 비즈니스코리아 - BusinessKorea] Let's face it, Google is never going to crush Naver here, unless they can somehow leverage their massive advantages in video (YouTube) and gaming (Play Store). But maybe these kind of partnerships between Kakao and Google can help them play nicer together.

Anyway it'll be interesting to see where this all goes from here. And I'm sure more/better news about this will come out in a few days time.

UPDATE 1: The English language articles have come out. Of interest are a couple details:

  1. You can choose to use KakaoNavi or Waze for your navigation
  2. It integrates with popular Korean music streaming services (Melon, Bugs, etc)
  3. Korean is the second language after English to have Google Assistant support on Android Auto.

UPDATE 2: Via @Kowiana, here's a look at it in action:

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