Info-tech

AI to lead Google's future

Varun Agarwal | | Updated on: May 08, 2018
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Assistant, Photos, Gmail get updates

Artificial intelligence is the flavour of the season—be it Microsoft, Amazon, Apple or Google. In one way or the other, all tech majors are taking to it in a big way. Google however, is taking AI to the next level as was apparent at the company’s annual I/O developer conference in Mountain View, California.

Taking the stage to 7,000 enthusiastic developers, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, highlighted the role AI is playing in each of Google products and announced major changes to some of the products like Google Assistant, Gmail, Photos and Maps. And yes, Search was missing in Google’s messaging at its annual event, in a sign that Google doesn’t want to be seen as someone exploiting your data for money in the midst of privacy debate in various countries that revolves around Facebook.

AI is not just a buzzword for Google as can be seen with the rebranding of Google Research as Google AI.

Working with hospitals

“Last year we announced Google AI at Google I/O conference. We want this to work globally so we are setting up google AI centres across the world,” said Pichai at the I/O conference. “Healthcare is one of the first things AI is going to transform. We’ve been running field trials in India to bring expert diagnosis where expert doctors are scarce,” Pichai said.

Pichai pointed to Google’s work with certain hospitals in India where it had been working on analysing retina scans at ophthalmologists and figured how the same scans can be used to predict heart attacks with the help of machine learning. The company said it is already running field trial with partners and products could start rolling out soon.

Big update for Assistant

Google Assistant received the biggest update at Google where Google demonstrated how Assistant would no more act as a robotic command executor but rather one with context and will be able to have multi-level conversations similar to what humans are adept at.

The assistant will also now be a lot more useful on your phone, giving you a quick snapshot of your day, with suggestions based on the time of day, location and recent interactions with the Assistant.

It’ll be available in more than 30 languages and 80 countries by the end of the year.

Gmail to get Smart Compose

Google made several new changes to Gmail late last month. Going forward, the company will launch a new feature called Smart Compose, which will allow you to write emails by merely tapping on sentence suggestions, generated by the AI platform which predicts what you're trying to convey in your messages.

“We already offer 8 million auto corrections a day with our keyboard. We are now bringing smart compose with Gmail. We use ML to start suggesting phrases as you type. All you have to do is press type and keep auto completing,” Pichai said.

Photos get auto suggestions

Another big product for Google is Photos. Every single day 5 billion photos are viewed by Google users on the Photos app. The internet giant is now bringing suggested actions to Photos.

“If you went to a wedding and looking at the pictures, we offer to send pictures to a friend who’s there in one of those pictures. If picture is underexposed, AI offers suggestion to auto adjust brightness with one tap,” Pichai explained.

“We can convert a document into PDF to make it much easier to use later. AI can also deliver unexpected moments. We can make pictures better by dropping colour in the background and popping out the subject," Pichai added. These features will be rolled out in the coming months, Pichai said.

Android P will offer digital detox

Next big announcement was around Android P, the upcoming upgrade to the Android operating system is now available in beta version for select handsets including Sony Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, Nokia 7 Plus, Oppo R15 Pro, Vivo X21, OnePlus 6, and Essential PH-1.

While for several years, Google has been looking at ways to make sure you use its platforms such as YouTube for longer periods of time, the search giant will now help you do a digital detox by helping you control the amount of time you spend on unproductive apps including YouTube.

Android P will show you a dashboard to show how much time you’re spending with each of your apps, how many times you’ve unlocked the phone and how many notifications you’ve received all day. Apps such as YouTube will show you the total time you’re spending on YouTube on phone as well as desktop and help you curtail the amount of time you spend on the app.

To improve battery life, Google partnered with British AI firm DeepMind to build Adaptive Battery feature for Android P, wherein the system prioritizes battery power only for the apps and services you use the most, to help you squeeze the most out of your battery.

Maps gets augmented reality

For better navigation, Google announced a new version of Maps that’ll bring augmented reality to your phone. The new augmented reality supported Street View mode will help you follow directions in real time, along with personalised recommendations to help you discover places in your neighbourhood.

The new AR capabilities combine Google Maps data with Street View along with a live feed from your phone’s camera to overlay walking directions on top of the real world to ensure that you don’t have to walk in the wrong direction just to check which direction Google maps is pointing your destination towards. The new AR mode will also be able to identify objects right from clothes, animals, plants, street signs and let you take specific actions such as playing a youtube video of a popular band when you point the camera towards its poster on the street.

These features are a part of Google’s efforts into a feature called Lens that was introduced last year  in Google Photos and the Assistant. Lens will now be available directly in the camera app on supported devices from LGE, Motorola, Xiaomi, Sony Mobile, HMD/Nokia, Transsion, TCL, OnePlus, BQ, Asus, and of course the Google Pixel.

Lens helps you make sense of a page of words by showing you relevant information and photos. For example, if you’re at a restaurant and see the name of a dish you don’t recognise—Lens will show you a picture to give you a better idea.

Published on May 09, 2018

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