Category Archives: Google Io

The revamped Google News app is now available on iPhones and iPads

Jeff Dunn

Google detailed an overhaul of the Google News app at its I/O developer conference last week, and on Wednesday that redesign officially became available to download on iOS devices. It replaces the previous Google Play Newsstand app.

The new app arrived on Android devices shortly after Google’s initial announcement. Google says the app is available in 127 countries.

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Uhh, Google Assistant Impersonating a Human on the Phone Is Scary as Hell to Me

Google could soon have a feature that lets your phone impersonate people—because consumer-facing artificial intelligence isn’t terrifying enough. Called Duplex, it’s intended to make people’s lives easier by handling standard phone calls that are necessary, but not especially personal.

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Google details new Android P features, including iPhone X-like gesture controls

Enlarge / The insanely colorful Android P Easter Egg. (credit: Android)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA—Google I/O 2018 has officially kicked off, and with it come more details on the latest version of Android. A public beta for Android P, as it’s still known, is out today for those who want to try the software for themselves. The usual caveats with installing unfinished software still apply.

Notably, however, Google has made the beta available on devices beyond the company’s own Pixel smartphones. Google says those who own the Essential Phone, Nokia 7 Plus, Sony Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, Vivo X21, Oppo R15 Pro, and the OnePlus 6 (when it comes out) will be able to access the early build alongside those with a Pixel or Pixel 2 phone. Google is crediting its Project Treble update initiative for making this expansion possible.

As for the update itself, the biggest news in Preview 1 was a new design style that was applied to the notification panel, main settings screen, and some system UI bits. Android VP of Engineering Dave Burke recapped a couple of features that had already been announced in that earlier preview, including a simplified volume control widget and the option to change the screen orientation even when you’ve locked the device in portrait mode.

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Google News gets Material Design look, better personalization with AI

Enlarge (credit: Google)

At Google I/O today, Google debuted its revamped Google News program that attempts to highlight “the best of what journalism has to offer.” The new program, redesigned using Google’s Material Design, tackles three goals: helping users keep up with stories they care about, helping those users understand stories fully, and making it easier for users to support news organizations they trust.

The company demoed the new Google News during the I/O keynote, showing off many features in mobile-app form. A general briefing sits at the top of the mobile app, highlighting five of the biggest stories happening now that users should know about. Google News uses AI to populate the rest of the news feed, picking out news stories from across the Web that appeal to you and your interests. It will also feature local stories and events based on your location.

Unlike other news aggregation services, Google News doesn’t make you pick out your interests from a long list of topics. Rather, the program uses reinforcement learning to know more about you the more you use it. We suspect that Google News will also use your Google account and all the information associated with it to find out more about you, your interests, and the stories you may like.

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Google Duplex will call salons, restaurants, and pretend to be human for you [Updated]

Enlarge (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Tuesday’s I/O keynote included a segment on Google Assistant with a slew of newly announced features, but none was as startling as its rollout of Google Duplex: a voice-powered service that pretends to be human and calls businesses on your behalf.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai played back two phone conversations that he alleged were 100-percent legitimate, in which Google’s AI-driven voice service called real-world businesses and scheduled appointments based on a user’s data. In both cases, voices that sounded decidedly more human and realistic than the default female Google Assistant voice used seemingly natural speech patterns. Phrases like “um” and a decidedly West Coast question-like lilt could be heard as Google Duplex confirmed both a salon appointment and a dinner reservation. (The two calls were completed with different voices: one male, one female.)

“We are still developing this technology,” Pichai told the I/O crowd, and he admitted many calls in Duplex’s testing phase “didn’t quite go as expected.” (Pichai did not play any sample audio of these failed tests.)

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Gmail’s new “smart compose” feature will help you write emails faster

Enlarge (credit: Rom Amadeo)

At today’s I/O keynote, Google announced a new Gmail feature dubbed “smart compose.” This AI-based system will let Gmail users write messages faster by suggesting phrases as they type out emails.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai presented a short demo of the new feature, showing how the AI suggests words and phrases and even completes sentences as you type out messages in a new email window. Smart compose will suggest options for what you may want to say next based on what you’ve already typed. If it works as well as it did in the demo, smart compose should help Gmail users write emails much faster and more efficiently.

We’ve seen features similar to “smart compose” in other contexts, like smartphone messaging apps. However, those apps typically stop at suggesting words and short phrases—Google’s new AI feature for Gmail goes even further to suggest full sentences. “Smart compose” will be rolling out to Gmail users this month.

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Google I/O 2018 preview—What we’re expecting from Google’s big show

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Google’s biggest show of the year, I/O 2018, will start up in just a few days. In addition to tons of developer talks, the show typically serves as a coming-out party for a bevy of Google announcements.

I/O hasn’t necessarily been your typical tech announcement event where months of pre-leaks reveal 90 percent of what will happen. But while we can’t know what’s coming for certain—everyone remembers those skydivers wearing augmented reality glasses, right?—we can go into this year’s show with a few informed predictions. Based on our analysis of evidence, past news, and Google’s usual release schedules, here’s what we’re expecting at Google I/O 2018.

Android P Developer Preview 2

This first one is easy. Every year Google releases a new developer preview of Android at I/O, and Google’s own schedule says we’ll get a new developer preview in “May,” the same month as Google I/O. A new preview of Android P is pretty much a lock. The real question is “What do we expect in the second Android P Preview?”

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Google I/O 2016 in pictures: What happens when you make nerds go outside

I’m going on my fifth year in this tech reporting game, and Google I/O 2016 is the only time I’ve been handed sunglasses, sunscreen, and a protective bandana as part of the welcome pack when I registered at an event.

Google’s big developer conference this year isn’t being held in its normal location at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco—it was moved to the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Google’s hometown of Mountain View. The keynote actually happened in the amphitheatre, and the rest of it was spread out into various ticket and concession booths and the sprawling parking lots surrounding the venue.

As a change of scenery, the move outside was actually fairly pleasant. The worst that can be said of the weather is that it was a little hot the first day and a little windy the second day. My appreciation of the beautiful weather and California greenery was tempered somewhat by an intense allergy to blooming plants, but that isn’t Google’s fault.

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All the Important Stuff Google Announced at I/O 2016 Today

All the Important Stuff Google Announced at I/O 2016 Today

Today, Google dropped a news clusterbomb, launching Android VR, a new Google Assistant, and an Amazon Echo-like Google Home hub. Here’s all the coolest stuff from today’s keynote.

Google Assistant Finally Turns Google’s Voice Commands Into a Helpful, Intelligent Conversation

Google has excelled at voice commands for a long time, but now the voice commands are going anthropomorphic. The company announced Google Assistant, which makes voice commands much more conversational. For example, you can say “I want to see a movie” and Google will provide some suggestions. If you want to narrow it down to kid-friendly movies, you can say “We want to bring the kids.” Google will then help you order tickets automatically.

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The Google Assistant will plug into a bunch of other services that can help you place a reservation at a restaurant via things like OpenTable, get a car with services like Uber, and buy movie tickets with companies like TicketMaster. You can also use the same Google voice commands you’re used to, like “How’s the weather?” or “How tall is Jeff Goldblum?”

Google Home Will Compete With Amazon Echo, Bring Google Assistant and More Into Your Home

All the Important Stuff Google Announced at I/O 2016 Today

Google isn’t content letting Amazon be the only one with a smart gadget sitting in your home awaiting your voice command. Today, the company announced Google Home. Much like Amazon’s Echo, Google Home is a stylish speaker and microphone combo that sits in any room in your home. It can field your voice commands from anywhere. If reception to the Echo is any indication, this could be a lot cooler than it sounds. And it already sounds pretty cool.

Google Home will also be able to connect to smart home devices like light switches and speakers to allow you to control your smart home with simple voice commands. Of course, smart homes are still pretty complex and difficult for most users to get into, so this might only help a few niche users.

Android N Still Doesn’t Have a Name, But You Can Suggest One

All the Important Stuff Google Announced at I/O 2016 Today

If you were hoping that Android N would finally get a name at I/O, you’re out of luck. However, Google will be asking for suggestions for the name. You can head to this site here to submit your N-flavored dessert. In terms of actual features, Google demoed several things that we already dug up like double-tapping to switch to your last app, and quick replies from notifications. Oh and Android won’t need to optimize apps after an update anymore. Brilliant. A new “beta-quality” version of Android will be rolling out soon for users in the Android Beta Program.

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Allo and Duo Are Yet Another Google Attempt at Messaging, But They Look Pretty Cool

All the Important Stuff Google Announced at I/O 2016 Today

Google hasn’t done so well in the messaging world while trying to compete with things like Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp. Their new attempt is called Allo, presumably pronounced with a bad impression of a British accent. It comes with a host of smart features like suggested replies, which Inbox users might be familiar with. The new Google Assistant is also built in, helpfully suggesting things like restaurants based on the context of your conversation. You can also adjust text sizes on the fly, for when you really need to get the point across.

If all that sounds like Google’s doing quite a lot of snooping on your conversations, you’re right. So, Google added an Incognito mode that turns off all smart suggestions and scanning for a while. So you can have a conversation without worrying about Google poking in. That might come as small comfort to the more privacy-minded who are worried about the rest of the time you’re not in Incognito mode.

Duo is a separate app for video calling, reminiscent of Apple’s Facetime. You can place. The key standout feature is something Google calls “Knock-Knock” (yes really) which shows you a video feed of the person calling you before you answer. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s still pretty neat.

What Google hasn’t said is how Allo and Duo affect their other messaging strategies. Google now has Hangouts for general messaging, Messenger for SMS, Google Voice for the users who still remember what Google Voice is, and now Allo and Duo. That’s a lot of messaging apps to manage. The smart money is that Allo and Duo will eventually replace Hangouts, but Google isn’t saying right now.

Daydream Is Bringing Powerful Virtual Reality to Your Android Phone

All the Important Stuff Google Announced at I/O 2016 Today

As we’ve been expecting, Google is bringing VR to Android with N. Daydream (not to be confused with the Android lock screen feature of the same name) will help developers create high-quality VR applications and experiences. There will also be a set of minimum requirements for phones to determine what hardware is capable of running VR.

Google is also introducing a controller specifically designed to be used in VR, plus a new, non-cardboard headset to hold your phone, along with a number of major manufacturers already signed up to support it. Both will arrive later this fall. Notably, Google’s hardware won’t require external tracking like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive do.

Android Wear Apps Now Work Without a Phone, Smart Replies Make Responding Easy

All the Important Stuff Google Announced at I/O 2016 Today

Android Wear wasn’t the revolution in wearables that Google hoped it would be, but it’s still pretty cool for some people. Now, it’s getting cooler. For starters, apps can now run on the watch without being dependent on your phone, which is awesome for those times when the connection between your phone and watch is wonky.

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Wear is also getting some reply improvements. On the upside, Wear devices are now getting smart replies—again, lifted from Inbox—so you can quickly reply with messages based on the context of the conversation. Google also added handwriting recognition and a full keyboard because…well, honestly I’m sure someone wants this. Still, I can’t pretend that typing on your watch will be a good experience.

Android Instant Apps Will Let You Download Just the Part of Apps You Need

Google’s tired of making everyone download entire apps just to use single links. Before the end of the year, Google’s planning to release Android Instant Apps, which will allow users to open just the parts of an Android app that they need.

As an example, Google showed a user opening up a B&H product page. Android downloaded just the product page instance, without having to install the B&H app. This looks like a really cool way to deal with apps that you might want to use once in a while, but don’t necessarily want to keep on your phone all the time. Google hasn’t said when this will roll out specifically, but they’re aiming for this to arrive over the next year.

Android Pay wants to streamline Web payments and customer signups

Example of Android Pay in PaymentRequest.

Today at Alphabet’s annual developer’s conference, the company announced a host of new tools for developers working with Android Pay—including support for Android Instant Apps, a new feature called PaymentRequest, and improvements to the Save To Android Pay API.

In a call with Ars on Tuesday, Senior Director of Product Management for Android Pay Pali Bhat said that the Android Pay team has been working to increase user signups and encourage continued use of the platform, something that all mobile payment platforms have struggled with in the last five years. “We have to deliver more utility and value,” Bhat said.

The new Android Pay features announced today are a means to that end. For instance, Instant Apps—Android’s new name for creating an app-like experience without having to download an app—will come with support for an Android Pay checkout feature. If users tap an Instant App URL, the app will run without installing or taking up valuable space on the user’s phone. With an Android Pay button, an Instant App from a parking garage could speed along the checkout process, for example.

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