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Hands-on with Keen: Is this Google’s AI-powered Pinterest? [Video]

Google is back in the social network game thanks to the Area 120-developed Keen — a Pinterest-like app that utilizes AI to create interest boards.

You might be wondering why do we need another Google product or network that can be killed off on a whim. Well, I would be inclined to agree, but Area 120 is an experimental incubator for apps that serves as a testbed for tons of things we see enveloped into popular Google apps.

One criticism leveled at some Area 120 creations in recent years is that there seems to be a big focus on iOS over Android. Keen is available on Android and in your browser first, which is actually quite refreshing to see.

What is Keen?


In basic terms, it’s an easy way to save bookmarks or links in a more presentable or visually pleasing format. That’s a very polite way of saying it’s a Pinterest rip-off. However, there are some extras that differentiate Keen from Pinterest from the get-go. Oh, that and boards are called “Keens” — not to be confused with the numerous Irish footballers or the British band.

Using Google’s AI prowess and expertise with interfaces, Keen is particularly slick and smooth. Pinterest often feels like it’s been taken over by food and fashion bloggers. The team behind the app wanted to create something that leveraged manual list and content collection creation with machine learning and Search to find “helpful content related to your interests.”

Considering just how long you can spend curating or searching boards and lists on competing services like Pinterest, you might find Keen that little bit more interesting. The team behind Keen also suggests that you’ll get even better recommendations the more you save and organize your own boards.

What is Keen like to use?

The main launch page of Keen reminds me of a magazine rather than an app per se. This is a good thing in many ways, as it feels more like a way of collecting your ideas rather than a list or checklist. When you’re looking for inspiration rather than a fully formed idea, I find that is far more helpful.

Getting helpful hints on something you’re interested in or wanting to learn more about is also really neat as you can opt-in to regular emails that will give you updates and information on your current “Keens.”

So when creating your boards you search via a term rather than start by tagging things. Just create a board with something you want to learn more about. For instance “learn how to cook good Indian food,” add a few extra tags if you are interested in a certain branch or specialist area, and Keen will use the power of Google Search to auto-generate a board for you to peruse.

Each Keen has an Explore, Saved, and Searches tab, while other controls are above. You can add more searches, hashtags, and even users to your Keens. This means if you like a particular artist, cook, musician, or anything else for that matter, you can populate your boards with their content. We all know how good Google’s recommendations are 99% of the time, well, they help enhance your collections even further by giving you helpful suggestions and content ideas.

Because you can share your collections with others, you can just follow other Keens that will alert you when new content is added. This might be great for building micro-communities in really niche interest areas.

If you’ve used Pinterest for a long time, you might have far more of a handle on your list and content collections and find it hard to switch over. Although if you have flirted with Pinterest and maybe want something that feels a little more streamlined, then it might be worth a try. The worst that could happen is that you get a little more organized.

Where can I try Keen?

You can start using Keen right now on the web or download the official Android app from the Google Play Store.

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Avatar for Damien Wilde Damien Wilde

Damien is a UK-based video producer for 9to5Google. Find him on Twitter @iamdamienwilde. Email

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