Ev­ery­thing Google re­vealed at I/O 2018

Google leaned heav­ily into ma­chine learn­ing and per­son­al­iza­tion dur­ing its key­note. BRAD CHACOS re­ports

Android Advisor - - Contents -

Google al­ways pulls out the stops for the key­note at its an­nual I/O de­vel­oper con­fer­ence, and this year was no ex­cep­tion. Google I/O 2018 lacked the flashy flag­ship hard­ware that de­fined pre­vi­ous key­notes – nary a new Chrome­book, Pixel, or Google Home could be found – but it still man­aged to shine, thanks to some

se­ri­ous im­prove­ments to the soft­ware and ser­vices un­der­ly­ing the en­tire Google ecosys­tem.

Hard­ware is noth­ing with­out soft­ware that tells it what to do, af­ter all. And at I/O 2018, Google’s soft­ware was fo­cused squarely on mak­ing the In­ter­net more about you through the power of ma­chine learn­ing. Let’s dig in.

Gmail Smart Com­pose

Google CEO Sun­dar Pichai kicked things off with Smart Com­pose, which is ba­si­cally Gmail’s Smart Re­ply cranked to 11. Whereas Smart Re­ply would scan your emails and in­tel­li­gently of­fer but­tons with quick one-click re­sponses, Smart Com­pose uses AI to sug­gest com­plete sen­tences as you’re draft­ing an email. As you type, you’ll see sug­ges­tions appear in faded grey text; click­ing Tab uses the sug­ges­tion.

“Smart Com­pose helps save you time by cut­ting back on repet­i­tive writ­ing, while re­duc­ing the chance of spell­ing and gram­mat­i­cal er­rors,” Google says. “It can even sug­gest relevant con­tex­tual phrases. For ex­am­ple, if it’s Fri­day it may sug­gest ‘Have a great week­end’ as a clos­ing phrase.”

Smart Com­pose sounds like a se­ri­ous time­saver if it’s as ef­fec­tive in re­al­ity as it is in con­cept.

Google Pho­tos

Ma­chine learn­ing is mak­ing Google Pho­tos more use­ful in the com­ing months, too. While you’re look­ing at an im­age in the com­ing weeks, you might see new prompts of­fer­ing to fix the bright­ness of an im­age, or fade the back­ground to black to make the star of the

picture pop. Get this: Google’s AI smarts will even be able to add colour to old black-and-white pictures.

Just as cool, if you take an im­age of a doc­u­ment, Pho­tos will be able to cre­ate a PDF of it au­to­mat­i­cally – even if it’s taken at an awk­ward an­gle.

Google As­sis­tant

Google As­sis­tant is evolv­ing into your Google As­sis­tant. A flurry of up­grades is com­ing to the AI helper, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to choose from six dif­fer­ent voices and, in the fu­ture, even a John Legend voice pack. New fea­tures let As­sis­tant re­spond to nat­u­ral con­ver­sa­tions and parse com­plex multi-step queries. On phones, the app will be able to show you an over­view snap­shot of your day. Smaller up­grades are also on the way, and third-party smart de­vices with screens will start rolling out with As­sis­tant in July. For fur­ther de­tails, go to page 28.

Google Du­plex

Speak­ing of phones, Google As­sis­tant will even be able to call lo­cal busi­nesses to sched­ule reser­va­tions for you, con­duct­ing com­plex con­ver­sa­tions in real time us­ing Google’s AI smarts and new voices. The ma­chine sounded eerily hu­man in an on-stage demon­stra­tion, com­plete with um­mms and ah­hhs in the mid­dle of sen­tences. The re­cip­i­ents seem­ingly had no idea they were con­vers­ing with a robot.

Google didn’t reveal An­droid P’s fi­nal name at I/O, but it did launch the next-gen An­droid OS in de­vel­oper pre­view beta form. A pre­vi­ous de­vel­oper pre­view launched in March, but the beta ver­sion adds An­droid P fea­tures re­vealed at I/O 2018 – see

page 12 for our hands-on. An­droid P is shap­ing up to be a sub­stan­tial up­date for Google’s smart­phone oper­at­ing sys­tem, with new AI-pow­ered fea­tures, a ma­jor nav­i­ga­tion change, and a suite of tools aimed at cur­ing smart­phone ad­dic­tion. Catch up on the newly an­nounced fea­tures in our An­droid P beta cov­er­age.

Google Maps

Con­tin­u­ing the theme of the day, Google Maps is get­ting an over­haul that uses ma­chine learn­ing to in­fuse your ex­pe­ri­ence with per­son­al­ized recommendations. A re­designed Explore tab and new For You tab will high­light lo­cal events and restau­rants, draw­ing not only from phys­i­cal lo­ca­tions but also from what you’ve liked in the past, and trend­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the area. This sum­mer, Google As­sis­tant will come to Maps as well. For de­tails see page 25.

Google also showed off a wild fu­ture for walk­ing di­rec­tions in maps. Tap­ping into com­puter vi­sion and ma­chine learn­ing, Maps can cre­ate an aug­ment­e­dreal­ity Street View that over­lays di­rec­tions and busi­ness de­tails on your screen in real time. Wild stuff.

Google News

Even Google News is get­ting in on the per­son­al­iza­tion ac­tion, with an over­hauled News app and web pres­ence that makes it eas­ier to find the news that mat­ters to you from the sources you trust. It’s em­pha­sized most by a ‘For You’ tab that ap­pears when you open the app, but Google’s AI touches ev­ery as­pect of the ser­vice. That in­cludes a ‘Full Cov­er­age’ sec­tion that at­tempts to give you a co­he­sive and broad view of any par­tic­u­lar story by map­ping out re­la­tion­ships be­tween peo­ple, places, and things in the story, then or­ga­niz­ing it into story lines with fre­quently

asked ques­tions and high­lighted tweets from a va­ri­ety of sources. Google says Full Cov­er­age is “by far the most pow­er­ful fea­ture of the app,” but there’s a lot more that’s new. Read up on it all on page 43.

Google Lens

The en­tire point of Google Lens is to lever­age the com­pany’s strengths in ma­chine learn­ing and com­puter vi­sion to pro­vide you with more in­for­ma­tion about the world, but it’s get­ting even more use­ful soon. A new smart text se­lec­tion tool lets you copy and paste text cap­tured with your cam­era. Even more use­ful, se­lect­ing a text snip­pet brings up in­for­ma­tion about the sub­ject. “Say you’re at a restau­rant and see the name of a dish you don’t rec­og­nize – Lens will show you a picture to give you a bet­ter idea,” Google says. “This re­quires not just rec­og­niz­ing shapes of let­ters, but also the mean­ing and con­text be­hind the words.” A fresh style match fea­ture, on the other hand, can show you in­for­ma­tion about out­fits or home dé­cor you like, as well as prod­ucts with a sim­i­lar style.

But per­haps most sig­nif­i­cantly, Lens is be­ing freed from the shack­les of Pho­tos and As­sis­tant. Google’s tech­nol­ogy will now come baked di­rectly into the Pixel’s cam­era app, and cam­eras in (un­spec­i­fied) de­vices by LG, Mo­torola, Xiaomi, Sony Mo­bile, HMD/Nokia, Trans­sion, TCL, OnePlus, BQ, and Asus.

For fur­ther de­tails, go to page 38.

Linux on Chrome­books

It didn’t make the I/O main stage, but in a fol­lowup post, Google re­vealed that Chrome­books are

get­ting Linux sup­port to help de­vel­op­ers code on the browser-based lap­tops. A pre­view will be avail­able for the Pix­el­book soon.

Ac­cord­ing to Google: “Sup­port for Linux will en­able you to cre­ate, test and run An­droid and web apps… Run pop­u­lar ed­i­tors, code in your favourite lan­guage and launch projects to Google Cloud with the com­mand-line. Ev­ery­thing works di­rectly on a Chrome­book.

Linux runs in­side a vir­tual ma­chine that was de­signed from scratch for Chrome­books. That means it starts in sec­onds and in­te­grates com­pletely with Chrome­book fea­tures. Linux apps can start with a click of an icon, win­dows can be moved around, and files can be opened di­rectly from apps.”

Waymo’s self-driv­ing cars will take pas­sen­gers for real

Google’s Waymo self-driv­ing car com­pany sought to show its safer side at the key­note. No doubt its ri­val Uber’s self-driv­ing tech­nol­ogy fail­ure, which led to the death of a pedes­trian in Tempe, Ari­zona, in March, was top of mind.

CEO John Kraf­cik said Waymo has used Google’s deep neu­ral net­works to re­duce its pedes­trian de­tec­tion er­ror rate by 100X. That sounds great, though by dig­ging into the num­bers, that er­ror rate started at 1 in 4, and there­fore im­proved to about 1 in 400. We’ll see how those num­bers work out in real life when the com­pany starts a driver­less trans­porta­tion ser­vice in an­other Ari­zona city, Phoenix, later this year.

Linux on a Chrome­book

Google Maps

Google Du­plex

Waymo

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