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Weekly Update - May 12, 2018: Google I/O, Google Photos, Google Maps

This week was the Google I/O annual developer conference, where Google announces new products and major updates. There were two big themes: artificial intelligence (and Google Assistant) and machine learning everywhere, plus a new focus on “wellbeing”, with new tools to help users make sure that technology is not “detracting from life”. There are links to all the news and updates below, but for a general overview see the list of “100 things Google announced at I/O ‘18”.
  • The Google Assistant is speaking “more naturally” , with six new voices (including John Legend), the ability to mimic the subtleties of human speech, and “Continue Conversations”, so you don’t need to say “Hey Google” every time. The culmination is Google Duplex, which will be tested starting this summer. Duplex allows the Google Assistant to make phone calls on your behalf to businesses to set appoints or check open hours. The announcement has created a fair amount of controversy, with people uncomfortable with the idea of talking with a bot that, um, tries to speak indistinguishably from a human. And some people think it could even violate states’ evesdropping laws. Google will need to deal with these concerns before launching this to the public.
  • Google Maps is getting more personal, with a redesigned Explore tab to help you find nearby restaurants and activities, a “match” score for restaurants and bars that suggests how much you are likely to enjoy the place, and a brand new “For you” tab where you can follow updates from specific neighborhoods or dining spots. Plus you will be able to easily use Maps to plan group outings. Don’t expect to see these option in the Maps app right now - they will only be available in the “coming months”.
  • Google also teased new walking navigation with an AR companion to lead the way. It will launch “in the coming months”.
  • Google Photos will now show you machine learning-powered “suggested actions” for editing or sharing as you are viewing photos. And there is a new auto-awesome creation where the subject of the photo is made to stand out by making the background black and white. And Google is working on one-tap automatic colorization of black and white images. 
  • In  potentially more exciting newsm there is now a Google Photos partner program, that lets developers build access to Google Photos - search, uploading, plus users existing images, videos and albums - into their apps. You can watch the Google Photos I/O Session for demos of how Google Photos can be integrated into different apps. 
  • Google Lens lets you start with a photo to find information. It’s available in Google Photos and Google Assistant, and soon will be available in the Camera app on a number of supported devices. It now offers smart text selection, so you can copy text from the real world to your phone; “style match” so you can search for similar clothing or home furnishings, and works in real time, so all you need to do is point your camera.
  • Google is using similar technology in the new Lookout app, which is designed to help visually impaired people to navigate the world around them. You wear your phone with the camera pointing outward and the app shares relevant information, like exit signs, nearby bathrooms, or people or objects nearby. And it doesn’t need an internet connection to function. 
  • The all new Google News is replacing Google Newsstand, using AI technology to analyze and organize news stories in real time. You can use the “Full Coverage” option for a deeper dive into a story with information from a range of trusted news sources. Plus there is a “For You” option where you can find stories about the topics and local news you care about. 
  • Google Research is now simply Google AI, since apparently all of Google’s research involves artificial intelligence. Some of the successful applications discussed at Google I/O include medical predictions from electronic health records, making it easier for self-driving cars to navigate in different environments, to Smart Compose in Gmail, where Google almost writes the message for you.
  • Android P Beta is available, with machine learning driven “smarter” controls, including Adaptive Brightness, Adaptive Battery use, and App Actions, that predict what you want to do next. Navigation has been redesigned and there are new tools for your “digital wellbeing” including a Dashboard that shows app use time, a new Do Not Disturb mode, and Wind Down, which helps you transition to bedtime. If you have a supported device you can get Android Beta today.
  • The flood of information online can be overwhelming and distract you from "real life". Google also wants to help improve your digital wellbeing (https://wellbeing.google). For example the YouTube mobile apps are getting new features that will remind you to take a break, show you how much time you’ve spent watching videos, and compile all your notifications into a single daily digest.
  • And to end on a positive note, YouTube announce the 2018 Creators for Change global ambassadors. These 47 creators from around the world are receiving funding and other support from YouTube for projects that address hate speech, xenophobia or extremism, and to work towards positive social change.
Whew, that’s a lot of updates, right? That's not even the half of it!  There are also tips and updates for webmasters, Google Plussers, business owners and more, so be sure to check out all the links below.
Image: #io18 with logos for Android P, Google AI, Assistant, Maps, Photos, YouTube, News, and Lens

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Previous Google I/O coverage

  

Posted by Peggy K

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