Can I just say this upfront? Google’s in-house incubator – Area 120 – is absolutely genius. Everything they come up with makes me think “Yep, I totally thought of that or should have, and now they brought it to life”. From our dearly beloved Rivet – the children’s reading app, which was absorbed into Nest Hub and smart displays – to Tables, their Airtable competitor that’s likely to become the future of Google Sheets, and most recently, ThreadIt – the company’s vision for what I presume to be the endgame for Google Meet, every idea that comes out of them is just exciting and forward-thinking. I should be less surprised each time they do announce something, but I’m not.
Their latest experiment is called Stack, and I believe that it could hint at exactly what we can expect for the future of the Google Drive ODT document scanning tool. As Area 120 is owned and operated by Google, and is a safe space for them to play with off-the-wall ideas without them affecting their core products until they’re ready or prove to be unviable, many of them do, in fact, become a part of services that we all know and use today. Stack allows you to scan your documents and receipts. It then automatically names and organizes into categories on your behalf by extracting key information with AI and machine learning.
Some automatic Stack categories include:
Then, the app will find important details in your documents and make them easier to access. For example, the account number, due date, and even the amount due will be placed in the document’s details panel where they will be available at a quick glance. It looks like it sure beats visually scanning the document to begin with. Once complete, Stack will then back up and store all of your documents in Google Drive where they will be secure. The app itself seems to have a biometric login method as well so that the docs are secure until they’re sent over to Drive.
Being that users have been uploading documents however they please for years using the standard upload method or the ODT document scanning feature built right into the Drive app for Android (press and hold the app icon and choose scan – not available on iOS), the cloud is probably rather messy right now and Google is likely looking for intelligent ways to clean it up. As the company is nixing unlimited, free storage for its services, tools like Stack will certainly come in handy for those of us who are trying to make the most intentional use out of the 15GB we do have without resorting to paying for more where it may not even be necessary. Apps like Evernote already do this sort of scanning and sorting into categories, but it will be a welcome feature for Drive if it does get integrated in a year or two.
Stack is now available in the United States for Android devices and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. Will you be utilizing this new Google-owned tool or at least taking it for a test drive? I really hope that in the future, there exists a way to add documents into Stack directly from Drive, but as it stands, you can only add documents into the app from your phone’s local storage. the ‘Your Stacks’ home screen of the app is exactly what I imagine your ‘Documents’ folder in Drive will one day look like – scan and sort, and then open a category as seen below in order to view and navigate those documents.
This would be a great improvement over manually creating folders for everything, or perhaps a great additional ‘view’ or filter for your existing documents. I would also like the ability to create custom stacks and define properties that the app would search for in order to intelligently tag and organize documents based on them, but allowing the user to manipulate the machine learning algorithms is probably a pipe dream for the foreseeable future.