The Major Highlights from Google I/O 2018

May 15, 2018 - 7 minutes read

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This year’s Google developer festival, the I/O conference, showed that the shift to ‘AI-first’ for the company was in full swing. Held each year in Mountain View right outside of San Francisco, the event has served as an opportunity for the tech titan to demonstrate why it’s still leading in innovation.

2018’s I/O showcased the recent fruitions of Google’s AI ambitions. As the company revealed the plans for its products in the coming year, it became readily apparent that integrating AI into everything was the name of the game.

Making Google Assistant More Human

Google’s AI-powered voice assistant is getting a small internal makeover to better fit into household dynamics. For example, the product received a “continued conversation” update, which eliminates the need to keep saying “OK, Google” before every interaction you have with the Assistant. This will hopefully create a more seamless conversational-style experience for families.

Another feature the company plans to roll out is the ability to ask multiple queries in one sentence like a person would naturally do. The Assistant will also remember past questions and answers for faster retrieval. Google will offer six new voices, including that of famous songwriter John Legend.

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Google took a page out of Amazon’s plans for their Echo Dot Kids Edition; the company plans to add a “Pretty Please” feature, which kids can use to improve their manners. When you say “please” with your question, the Assistant will compliment you and respond back politely.

The scariest feature being released for the Assistant is the Duplex — it makes calls on your behalf, and it sounds extremely human, to the point where Google added “umm”s and “uhh”s into the robot AI’s speech pattern. This has caught quite a bit of negative press, and Google is taking the criticism in stride to make a product more palatable to the public.

Google Photos and Google Lens

Google Photos and Google Lens are receiving new built-in editing tools, like greyscale photo colorization, brightness correction, rotation suggestions, and other quick-fix recommendations. Make no mistake, Google is using our photos to improve its visual search and AI algorithms, but it also works in the background to edit your photos, create movies and collages, and organize albums automatically.

Photos will also offer to spot your friends in images, convert images into PDFs, and spot color or spot greyscale any of your photos. The company developed this mobile app to entice new users to use their photo-editing services over other competitors.

Google Lens will offer a new feature where you can highlight and select text from an image, whether it’s in a book or a street sign. Another new addition is “Style Match”, where Google uses object recognition and machine learning to find styles and accessories that are similar to a photo you have taken.

A Deep Focus on AI

The company is rebranding its Google Research Division into Google AI. Google is prioritizing research and development on the fields of neural networks, natural language processing, and computer vision. As customized hardware for AI takes off, the company is also hard at work on their third-generation TPU (tensor processing unit). CEO Sundar Pichai says the newest TPU is eight times more powerful than the last version.

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Google is also focusing on continuously improving its TensorFlow software in addition to optimizing the TPU hardware. It released a new machine learning software development kit for iOS and Android developers. The models support face recognition, text detection, barcode scanning, image labeling, and recognition of landmarks and prominent buildings.

Google Maps

Google plans to add AI, in the form of its Google Assistant, into its Maps app. Assistant will give better recommendations to users. Google combined the phone’s camera with computer vision to incorporate augmented reality (AR) into street-view maps. The AR will add arrows to street view to show you where to turn left or right, and the camera integration gives Maps an edge over Apple Maps or Waze.

Google News

The tech titan’s news platform will integrate with other Google services to create a more cohesive subscription experience for users who follow free and paid RSS feeds. Leveraging AI could give Facebook a run for its money.

Android P

The newest version of Android, dubbed “Android P”, wants you to spend more time outside and with your loved ones. The updates to the mobile operating system will let you set controls for limited screen time, information on how to use your phone, and turn on “shush” mode to silence your phone during quality time.

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The company is also beginning to transition Android to become usable on phones that have no buttons. Multitasking will be easier because virtual buttons can understand multiple gestures.

Google’s Game Plan

Google’s making a lot of changes, and most of them center around improving user experience with AI. This coming year is shaping up to be a busy one for the search engine giant. It will be exciting to see the end result from all of these endeavors.

The company is on a mission to make its name synonymous with ‘AI.’ If all goes well this year, it may achieve exactly that.

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