Google I/O 2018        

Google I/O 2018

May 10, 2018

Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, kicked off the annual I/O (“Innovation in the Open”) conference in California earlier this week. The three day event brings together developers from around the globe to reveal all the changes, updates and innovations Google has had in the works for 2018. Closing in on day 3, it’s clear Google is making strides in AI and making our devices smarter and more diverse. If you read our monthly article on Technology (catch up here!) then you’re up to date on how quickly virtual assistants and smart home technology has been evolving. Google has taken this steps further as we saw revealed at I/O among other new and exciting features.

Pichai opened the Keynote on Tuesday.

Google Research Shifts to Google AI
We’ve moved light years passed the AI of Chippy and even Watson, and now Google is putting more effort into the evolution of AI. They announced that they are rebranding their Research division to Google AI with a focus on computer vision, natural language processing, and neural networks. Google’s first big announcement was for AI and natural language. Speech recognition technology got it’s start in the 1960’s but despite its advancements over the last few decades there were always issues with continued speech. With a casual “Hey Google”, we’re able to easily interact with the smart device, but only one command at a time. Google announced that the new update will enable the user to speak more freely and continuously in a much more natural way with Google Assistant. Rather than having to “greet” Google for each command, you can now list off commands after the first introduction and make multiple requests. We’re still teetering on the age of complete conversation with AI but these updates will bring us that much closer (available later this summer).

Less Machine, More Human
Continuing down the path of becoming more relatable, Google’s other AI updates include customized voices and realistic banter. Google Assistant now has 6 voice options including John Legend (below). Responses from the crooner are sure to make AI less machine and more human. AI is also creeping into the service industry, as we’ve already seen with drone deliveries, autonomous Uber, etc., and being implemented in reservation services. Google Duplex will be on the other end of the phone making your dinner reservation without the receiver even realizing it. The machine voice is extremely convincing and peppers in some human “um”s and pauses. It’s taking the concept of robocalls and flipping it to the user’s advantage and convenience.

Google’s also increasing the Assistant interaction and compatibility with Smart Displays. Cooking with Google Assistant will add in videos and pull up recipes on the screen (while reading them off of course) and when the kitchen starts to heat up adjusting the temperature will be a precise swipe on the Nest thermostat app.

Please and Thank You Google
Competing with the new edition of Amazon’s Echo Dot’s that are targeted to children, Google will encourage the use of their “Pretty Please” feature that enables responses only if the user ends with a polite “please.” With our homes being more ingrained with virtual assistants who can accomplish more tasks for us it’s a step in the right direction for manners.

Map + Mail Updates
We saw some of the leaks already last week and this week Google expanded on some of their Gmail and Map updates. With the Smart Compose feature AI will politely suggest responses for you within an email. The AI isn’t so advanced that it can predict your response though. Rather, it will attempt to finish sentences. Google Maps has also started friendly suggestions by incorporated Yelp and Foursquare into the app. It’ll pull trendy new food spots for you to consider and allows you to coordinate with friends within the app as well. When you finally do decide on a restaurant and need directions, Google Maps new augmented reality will help you get there.  The maps will provide a live feed that will make it easier to detect if you are heading down the right road.  This is the more practical alternative to Google Glass.

Photo Lens
AI has also sunk it’s teeth into Google Photos. With new editing features Google can transform old and new pictures into vibrant striking images. For example, some of the new capabilities include separating subjects from the background and foreground and turning black and white photos into color. Google Lens is also making lives easier by grabbing a text in real life with the phone camera (i.e. a menu list) and paste it into a text field on the phone or look up what that mystery French entree is.

Coverage Continued
All I/O coverage was conveniently being recorded and distributed around the world. If you weren’t in California, you could’ve caught up via Livestream at your desk and plugged into the excitement. And if you’re still catching up check out the 14 minute recap here.  The 3 day event closed out with performances by Phantogram and Justice leaving the crowd ready for I/O 2019.

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