A jaunt to California - Google I/O 2018!

    5th Jul 2018
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    The Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California experienced a wave of innovation and path-breaking ideation from May 8-10 this year. Google I/O, the annual developer festival, brought together developers from all over the world for a technical conference. Also allowing developers to learn directly from the pros, the highlight of I/O is when Google throws light on its novel and modish products with the audience. Stay with us as we go through some of these!

    1. Google Lens now much more accessible

    Initially restricted to a selected few phones, Google Lens will soon be an in-built feature in all Android phones. Users will be able to access it directly using the camera app.

    Point your phone’s camera to a written text, say a helpline number or a certain address, and find it in your phone without having to type it out. Gone will be the days when you had to glare at a wifi password in a restaurant to memorise it and then enter it into your phone. Google Lens has come to your rescue!

    Like what that woman in the Cosmopolitan centrefold is wearing? Point your camera towards her top or scarf or ripped jeans to get suggestions on similar apparels available with Internet retailers. This is a dream come true for all those who often find themselves doting on certain fashion items, furniture, books, etc. but just don’t know where to get them from.

    What else? Google Lens’ technology - faster and smarter than ever before. If you don’t know whether the mammal in front of you is a sea lion or a seal, you know what to do.

    2. Assistant adds to its resume

    We experience pangs of laziness before carrying out the most trivial and mundane tasks. It’s no surprise how much you’ve procrastinated making an appointment with your doctor or booking the hotel for your upcoming vacation. Google can help you out with these quotidian phone calls now, thanks to Google Assistant. Responding and reacting appropriately, it pretty much imitates humans. While this is incredible, we’re not sure where this will stop. Will the next development be a virtual assistant that can also have emotional conversations? Is it necessary for everything to be automated? Are we becoming that indolent as a race?

    In case these questions have rolled you into a state of deep introspection, let’s cheer things up with the fact that John Legend has lent his voice to Assistant as well (so have six other humans who are not John Legend). So, you can have John Legend tell you Monday’s bus schedule and so much more through Google’s smartphone OS - Wear OS. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Assistant-powered smart displays will also be entering the market in July 2018. With the added feature of being able to play YouTube videos, this is prophesied to be a threat to Amazon’s Echo Show.

    3. Android P makes an entrance

    It’s not a surprise as to how many people in the metro or how many kids in the park are actually always on their phones or tablets. Technology, while making life simpler, is also restricting it to the digital world. Google acknowledges this and has taken an initiative to promote work-life balance by introducing features like Dashboard, Wind Down and App Timer in Android P, the ninth version of the Android OS.

    Dashboard, in pretty simple words, gives a reality check. How much time do you spend on different apps? How many notifications did you receive all day? How many times did you unlock your phone in the last 4 hours? Will these statistics help change the deeply-rooted smartphone culture? We’re not sure but it will have some impact indeed. App timer, as the name implies, allows users to fix a time limit to the apps they’re using. So get ready for an alarm to go berserk 15 minutes after you start using Facebook. Wind down, on the other hand, is for those who crash on their beds with the intent of sleeping but are glued to their phones for the next hour. So let your phone know that you intend to sleep and it will switch to grayscale and the Do Not Disturb mode, that blocks all kinds of alerts.

    Another hallmark of Android P is the adaptive battery feature. We’ve all been in the situation where we’re on an important call or listening to a really nice song but suddenly, the phone’s battery decides to conk off. Thus, the significance of this feature cannot be underestimated. Predicting what apps you are less likely to use through the day, it can, in a way, make them dormant so that they don’t suck the life out of your device. Also endowed with adaptive brightness, Android P is nimble-witted indeed.

    Also, do you know how you’re having dinner with your family and your dad eyes something (which could be one of five things) on the dining table? But apparently, your mom always knows what he’s looking for and fetches it for him in a split second? Also when you are on your way out and go back into the house but she already has in her hand the notebook you forgot to put in your bag? Imagine if your phone could do something like that - knowing what you’re going to do next. They have planned to make this a reality with Android P. Based on what you’re currently doing, it gives suggestions and different options available. For example - If you’re looking for what ‘gyoza’ means, it might suggest you a Sushi place close by or ask you if you want to play music or call someone when you plug in your headphones. They call this feature ‘App Actions.’ ‘App Slices,’ on the other hand, let developers put live parts of their app into other apps or portions of the operating system. This purpose behind is to make multitasking simpler, much like the motive behind Android P’s new navigation system that intends to make the user interface easier to understand.

    4. Loud claps for Google Maps

    If you had to go to a place in a new city or a new part of town 20 years ago, the struggle cannot be fathomed. You would end up taking a right when you should’ve taken the left and asking for instructions was a whole different ball game. Five people would tell you five different things and you’d end up reaching your destination an hour after intended. Then in 2005, just like a miracle, the world witnessed the birth of a angel called Google Maps which certainly does not need any introduction.

    It simplified travelling throughout the world but like every other thing, wasn’t devoid of follies. If you have spun an entire 360 degrees at a crossroads on the road not knowing where to go, you know what this is about. The blue navigation arrow in the application can be a source of distress because it becomes difficult to figure out where its really pointing. To solve this, Google has incorporated the abilities of Google lens with Google Maps resulting in augmented reality directions and an AR overlay when the camera is pointed towards a street.

    What’s more? Google Maps is branching out. It won’t just be a web mapping service but an entire package - even capable of telling users where different popular restaurants, clubs, businesses, etc. are located!

    5. AI steals the show

    Machine learning has infinitely many applications but this one is simply astounding. We’ve always associated finishing sentences with lovers but this one’s a pleasant surprise. Lay back and take a break as you send your emails because the Smart Compose feature can predict your sentences and offer suggestions. Now, automating the emails you send this may seem a little too much but the real scenario can be figured out only once this feature is released to the public.

    The other application of artificial intelligence extends to Google News. Owing to AI and new design features, news will be organised into different storylines and added to specific briefings and newscasts, hence becoming more accessible. It’ll also be more authentic since the machine learning capabilities will screen through the sources of the publications.

    Like this wasn’t enough already, I/O dropped another bomb. Developer Tania Finlayson found a way to communicate and get past her disability. This prompted her and her husband to come up with a way to translate head movements into Morse code and integrate this feature into Gboard, the virtual keyboard app. With AI-driven predictions and suggestions, this technology can be a door to greater things in the future.

    6. Alex Proyas’ I, Robot (2004) becoming a reality?

    Like a kid in a candy store, what got people really excited was when John Krafcik, the CEO of Waymo Inc., talked about the driverless Jaguar I-Pace SUVs. Planning to put more than 20,000 of them on the road within the next couple of years, Krafcik elucidated on how Google was on a mission to make this a reality. While it has been over 30 years since Carnegie Mellon University invented the self-driving technology, what Google will be able to take credit for is bringing these all-electric cars to the commercial market.

    ..

    Conferences like the Google I/O 2018 are a window to uninhibited innovation and creativity. While not everything presented might prove to be utilitarian, innovation is always a constructive process. Looking forward to I/O 2019? We sure are! Feel free to contact us in case of any questions or suggestions. We would be delighted to hear from you.

    Avni Mehta and Achin Gupta

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