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Google I/O 2018 Highlights

Earlier this month, Google’s annual developers conference took place at the Shoreline Amphitheater in the city of Mountain View, California. I/O 2018 was a three-day developers festival, starting on Tuesday 8th May and finishing on Thursday 10th May. The event brought thousands of developers together from across the globe for talks, workshops, keynotes and hands-on learning sessions from Google experts and a glance at some of Google’s exciting upcoming developer products and updates. We picked out some of the most important highlights of I/O 2018.

7 min read

Google Assistant

For those who don’t know, Google Assistant is a virtual assistant developed by Google, which is available on home and smart devices. Google Assistant is to Google what Siri is to Apple. However, Google has taken this feature to the next level with several new updates.

The biggest upgrade that has been made to Google Assistant, is giving it the ability to call business and make reservations and appointments for you. Yes, you read that right! The feature, named Duplex, will be able to understand fast speech and complex sentences, whilst appropriately and naturally responding to any follow-up questions. Google plans to conduct some early testing of Duplex inside the Google Assistant over the summer, before eventually releasing it to the public. Check out the video of Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, previewing this incredible new feature to the public here!

It was also confirmed that Google Assistant will by the end of 2018 to support 30 different languages. By using WaveNet, Google aims to make its voices increasingly realistic, with the main objective of perfecting all accents and languages around the world. Google Assistant will also get six new voices for users to choose from. One of them being John Legend’s voice! Awesome!

Finally, Google is continuously upgrading the Google Assistant in order to make conversations with it more natural, allowing it to handle multiple questions and commands at the same time. Google Assistant can now also be activated by simply saying “Hey Google”.

Google Photos

Google’s use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) is constantly on the increase, as it implements it for many of its new and upcoming features.

Google Photos can now take an old restored black and white photo and convert it back to realistic colours and complete any remaining finishing touches, whilst giving you the added option of increasing the brightness of pictures. It will also be able to convert documents and photos into PDFs.

Lastly, a new Google Photos feature called Suggested Actions can actually spot and recognise friends in your photos and offer you to the chance to share the photos with those friends, all with the simple press of a button. Clever.

Google Lens

Last year, Google announced their AI-powered technology called Google Lens, which was designed to be able to detect and identify specific objects and provide further information about them, by using the smartphone’s camera.

It has now been announced that this feature will soon be rolling out on more smartphones, as before it was exclusively available on the Google Pixel phone.

Google has now even made it possible for smartphones using Google Lens to highlight words written on the page of a book or magazine, and then automatically transform them into digital text.

Google Maps

Google Maps is getting a lot smarter.

In fact, for its new impressive and groundbreaking feature, Google plans to integrate Augmented Reality (AR) into Google Street View, allowing users to easily track the direction they are walking in, with the help your phone’s camera. All you need to do is point your camera in a certain direction, and allow Google to pair AI with the Street View data, resulting in an interactive, AR experience with arrows appearing on your camera and leading you the right way.

Another addition to Google Maps is the introduction of the “For You” tab. This new feature will show you new businesses in your area, such as restaurants and bars that are currently trending in general, or amongst your family and friends. You can even use it to arrange plans with friends in real time by making a shortlist of restaurants or other locations on the Google Maps app!

Powered by AI, Google Maps will also be able to recommend you new venues and locations based on your previous reviews and ratings, in the “Your Match” section. It will also enable you to create shortlists of restaurants, which you can then share with your friends before deciding where you want to go. Adding this social aspect to Google Maps is certainly going to make life easier and more fun when it comes to decision making! These features are expected to be released over the course of the summer.

Google News

Google’s News app is also experiencing some changes and upgrades!

The first noticeable change is that the app will display its top five stories as soon as you open it.

Google has also announced it wants to step up its battle against Fake News, as the creator of Google News claimed last year that too many hoaxes and false information were being shared within the news app. In order to help readers understand the full scope and background of a news story, Google News will present you with a wide range of sources and formats. This new feature, called “Full Coverage” will offer you the chance to gain a deeper understanding of a subject, by giving you related stories, timelines of important events, background information and more.

The biggest improvement Google has made to its news application is the introduction of AI-driven Google News!

By utilising Artificial Intelligence, Google aims to personalise the news that its viewers read, by offering them news stories that users are more likely to be interested in, based on their previous experiences, search history and behaviour on the app, as well as on the Google News website.

A brand new feature called “Newscasts” is also being rolled out, which is similar to Instagram or Facebook Stories, but for news.

Gmail

It’s been known for a while that Google was planning to redesign its email platform and give it a new look. However, several functional changes have also been added and they’re just as impressive as we expected!

Firstly, Google has now made it possible for users to make payments using the Gmail iOS application, although this has been available to Android users for a while now.

The really eye-catching addition is the release of the ‘Smart Compose’ feature. In simple terms, this will allow Gmail to write emails for you! Let me explain.

It’s actually more of an autocomplete function for emails, again powered by the magic of Artificial Intelligence. By using machine learning, Gmail won’t just predict words that users plan to type, but actual entire sentences and phrases! This is made possible by AI’s ability to understand the context of the words you are writing, and basing it on users’ previous writing history. Is there anything Google can’t do?

Android P

Following up on its announcement on March 7th, Google gave a more detailed image of the soon to be launched ‘Android P’, the upcoming ninth major version of the Android operating system. The beta quality preview was released on the first day of the Google I/O conference.

Android P is only a temporary name, and its new full name will only be revealed later on this year.

We’ve summed up some of the changes and updates that are expected to be rolled out when this new operating system becomes functional:

  • Increased user personalisation: Settings that automatically change based on how a person usually uses his or her phone (e.g. adaptive battery and brightness settings).
     
  • Predicting your next step: Android P will have ‘app actions’ that are aware of your location and time, and can, therefore, predict what your next move will be on your phone. For instance, if you usually put your phone on silent when going to the cinema theatre, your phone will be one step ahead and can do it for you! If you always call your parents at 9 pm, your phone will make the suggestion to call them when it's that time. Awesome, right?
     
  • New Dashboard: This new feature, a Dashboard that can be found in your Android’s settings section, will allow users to accurately monitor the time they spend on their phone or tablet. It can even give you more specific information, such as the time you spend on certain apps, the number of times you’ve unlocked your phone and more. It will even help you restrict the time you spend on certain apps, by allowing you to set a time limit.
     
  • Shush: Lastly, Android’s new ‘Shush’ feature, will automatically put your phone into ‘do not disturb’ mode when you place it face down on a table.

We’re quite literally blown away by some of these groundbreaking changes that Google has announced in the last couple of weeks! With many of these new features set to be rolled out in the coming months, we’re very excited to start working with them! Which new feature caught your eye the most? Let us know by commenting in the section below!


 

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