Google's new "Actions on Google" platform eliminates what is possibly the biggest source of friction in mobile commerce: Getting consumers to download an app and set up an account for purchasing.

The new platform simulates the open-ended nature of calling a store to place an order, but includes certain perks of mobile commerce such as stored account information and pictures of products.

Google demonstrated this process by placing an order with Panera Bread through the Google Assistant built into its smartphones and the Google Home speaker.

Google Pixel smartphone
The Google Assistant, which is built into the Google Pixel smartphone (pictured), will be able to simulate a conversation with a store to place an order. Bloomberg News

"The platform handles all of the complexity," said Valerie Nygaard, senior product manager Google, in a presentation at the Google I/O developer conference on Wednesday.

The Google Assistant, representing Panera, suggested menu items with pictures and was able to access Nygaard's stored addresses and payment details without installing an app or setting up a Panera account. It used fingerprint authentication before sending any of this information to the merchant.

"I was in control of what I shared, every step of the way," said Nygaard, who described the process as "super easy, like I was talking to someone at the store. I didn't have to install anything or create an account."

The technology would seem to either complement or replace Instant Apps, a system Google teased at last year's Google I/O event as a way to enable payments without requiring the user to download an app first. Instant Apps are intended for situations such as paying at an internet-connected parking meter the user had not visited before. However, Google has provided few updates on the platform since last year's unveiling.

Google also announced Google Lens, a system for identifying real-world items and locations, such as a store, through a phone's camera and GPS. Though not described as a technology for commerce and payments, this use case for Google Lens is reminiscent of Amazon's Firefly, which it built into its ill-fated Fire phone as a way to search for items in Amazon's catalog.

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