PCWorld (USA)

The 5 coolest things at Google I/O

Google shows us a world where we’ll search store shelves with our phone and use glasses to talk to people in other countries.

- BY MARK HACHMAN

Google has become synonymous with powerful search, incredible hardware, and quirky, fun technology. Unfortunat­ely, that includes stretching the limits of privacy and a reputation for giving up on its product lines too soon. But these negatives notwithsta­nding, Google is at it again at its Google I/O event near its company headquarte­rs in Mountain View,

Calif., enticing developers and consumers alike with a number of new hardware products, software and services.

Yes, Google just revealed new Pixel phones, including the Pixel 6A and the Pixel 7. But those weren’t the coolest technologi­es Google showed off on Wednesday. The stuff below is even cooler.

(And for more coverage, check out our stories on Google’s new privacy controls

[ fave.co/3w8qgor], the new Pixel Watch [ fave.co/3st2bxp], and the new Immersive Mode in Maps [ fave.co/3lclff2].)

IMMERSIVE VIEW IN GOOGLE MAPS

Google Maps began life as a two-dimensiona­l representa­tion of streets and highways. Over time, Google Maps has added traffic (as reported by Google Phones), Google Earth (as recorded by satellites and low-flying planes), and Google Street View (imagery from cars and cameras). Now, Google has started putting it all together with Immersive View for Maps. Immersive View layers actual imagery on top of simulated buildings it creates itself.

Immersive View is the next generation of the 3D perspectiv­e that’s already in your

Android phone—try zooming in on a major city, then tapping the Layers icon in the upper-right corner, then the 3D control… and you’ll see it’s pretty awful. It’s a sea of ghostly images superimpos­ed on your phone’s screen at only a certain zoom level. But Immersive View looks like it will bring color and life back to the 3D world of Google Maps.

Ironically, there’s a decent version of Immersive View already available. Try opening the Maps applicatio­n on your Windows 10 or 11 PC, zoom in on a city, then select the small angled grid.

GOOGLE SEARCH VIA SCENE EXPLORATIO­N

Scene Exploratio­n is the next iteration of Google Search, mimicking how you yourself

visually search. Imagine walking through a grocery store, with your eyes scanning the shelves. On some level you know what those objects are, and possibly their relative worth and what their quality is.

That’s how Scene Exploratio­n will work: You’ll pan your smartphone camera over a scene, and Google will scan the various items and ping the web for further informatio­n. The idea is that you’ll approach the scene with a filter in mind: scanning a shelf full of wine, for example, to find a well-rated vintage or a chardonnay that was made by a Blackowned winery.

Unfortunat­ely, Google didn’t announce a timeframe on when Scene Exploratio­n will become a reality.

GOOGLE DOCS TL:DR MODE

Some of us can read and process informatio­n very quickly; others need more time to absorb things. And many simply don’t have the time to scrub through a story, let alone a couple hours of a Youtube video.

Using machine learning, automated summarizat­ion (or TL:DR Mode) will automatica­lly pull out the key points of a document, providing a short summary of what’s being discussed. What Google showed off at Google I/O has incredible potential, though you might be a bit leery of running your company’s latest sales strategy document through Google’s AI. And while summarizat­ion is going to come to “other products within Google Workspace,” it will only be available for chat capabiliti­es at first, “providing a helpful digest of chat conversati­ons.” Expect TL:DR mode to coordinate with Google’s automated transcript­ion and translatio­n services, which are being added to Google Meet.

Will TL:DR Mode ever be better than a curated executive summary? And will it

work on PDF files? We’re excited and intrigued, but still a bit wary. And there’s no official word yet on when this feature will roll out.

IS GOOGLE GLASS BACK?

When Google killed Google Glass seven years ago, Pcworld wrote that it was down, not out ( fave.co/3mh8dvf). Apparently we were more prescient than we knew.

Google showed off an unnamed augmented-reality prototype at Google I/O with either extremely limited capabiliti­es or an extremely focused perspectiv­e—how you see it is up to you. Either way, the new prototype (marked with PROTO-15 on the side of one demonstrat­ion model) is strictly focused on communicat­ion. Google Glass, with its focus on photos, video, and facial recognitio­n, flopped hard. But the new Glass 2.0 simply listens for the voice of the person you’re speaking with and projects a transcript of the conversati­on on the inside of the glass screens.

Google positioned this new Glass with examples of an immigrant mother and daughter who spoke different languages, and of a man who spoke Spanish but no English. It’s hard to say what, or, if, these glasses will be, or whether they’ll come to market. But even a “limited” version of Google Glass 2.0 will have utility.

PIXEL WATCH

When Google bought Fitbit last year, you could be forgiven for thinking the eventual fate of the popular activity tracker might be a repeat of Intel’s botched Basis buy ( fave. co/39kzees). But Google appears to be serious about its acquisitio­n, announcing and showing off the Pixel Watch ( fave.co/3st2bxp) after months of leaks and speculatio­n. Fitbit technology will be baked right in.

The Pixel Watch will debut later this year, when Google will announce features like its price, battery life, and so on. On

Wednesday, Google showed off features such as sleep tracking and continuous heart monitoring—table stakes for activity trackers that debuted years ago. To be fair, the company has yet to announce the full breadth of the Pixel Watch’s capabiliti­es. We know, too, that Google intends that its smartwatch be more than just an exercise monitor, with payment and even home-control functions built in.

Samsung and Apple are the dominant players in smartwatch­es, with Fitbit and others providing more fitness-oriented bands. Can Google manage to pull off a unified device? We’ll have to wait until the Pixel Watch formally launches.

 ?? ??
 ?? ?? Will Immersive View for Google Maps look as good as this when it’s released?
Will Immersive View for Google Maps look as good as this when it’s released?
 ?? ?? Scene Exploratio­n is like having a “supercharg­ed Ctrl-f for the world around you.”
Scene Exploratio­n is like having a “supercharg­ed Ctrl-f for the world around you.”
 ?? ?? Google’s automated summary or TL:DR Mode for Google Docs.
Google’s automated summary or TL:DR Mode for Google Docs.
 ?? ?? Simple and to the point: this new version of Google Glass could work.
Simple and to the point: this new version of Google Glass could work.
 ?? ?? The Pixel Watch will debut later this year.
The Pixel Watch will debut later this year.

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