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9 of the Biggest Google I/O Keynote Announcements

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Each year, bonafide tech geeks and enthusiasts gather or tune in for one of the biggest events of the year: Google I/O, the search giant’s annual developer conference.

It’s a learning opportunity for many, with sessions and talks creating what Google describes as “an immersive experience focused on exploring the next generation of tech.”

But it’s the annual opening keynote that really has everyone paying the most attention. That’s when the company’s leadership, from the CEO to various VPs, unveils and describes the newest technologies, devices, and product features released by Google. For even more Google tips, download our free guide here.

If you missed this year’s opening keynote, fear not: We’ve got you covered with the nine biggest announcements from it. And each month, we’ll continue to bring you a digest of what big Google news you may have missed. So read on — and stay tuned.

What You Missed From the Google I/O Opening Keynote

1) Google Lens

Anyone else remember this video from July 2015?

As “La Bamba” plays in the background, mobile device cameras hover over various words that are then translated into another language. It was a preview of something huge — something that’s finally come to fruition: Google Lens.

There are those moments when you see something that you don’t recognize — like a bird or plant, or perhaps a new cafe somewhere — but can’t identify specifically what it is. Now, with Google Lens, all you have to do is point your camera at it to get the details you want. Check out this super short video to see how that works with a storefront:

Source: Google

But it doesn’t stop with plant species and restaurant information. With this technology, you can also join a home WiFi network by hovering the camera over the name and password. From there, you’ll be prompted with the option to automatically connect.

According to TechCrunch, Lens will be integrated with Google Assistant — “users will be able to launch Lens and insert a photo into the conversation with the Assistant, where it can process the data the photo contains.” That’s a pretty concise summary of what the Lens technology is able to do: understand what a photo means. During the keynote, Google’s VP of Engineering, Scott Huffman, used the example of being able to add concert information to your calendar by taking a Lens photo of the marquee.

google-io-2017-0141.jpg Source: TechCrunch

2) Google for Jobs

google-io-2017-0362.jpg Source: TechCrunch

Anyone who’s ever undertaken a job search knows that there’s an overwhelming number of outlets where openings are listed. “Wouldn’t it be nice,” many job seekers asked, “if all of this information were readily available in one, central place?”

Ask, and ye shall receive. Google set out to synthesize job listings from a number of posting sites — as it’s wont to do, after all — and display it within search results. From there, writes Jessica Guynn for USA Today, “job hunters will be able to explore the listings across experience and wage levels by industry, category and location, refining these searches to find full or part-time roles or accessibility to public transportation.”

Google for Jobs addresses “the challenge,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai during the keynote, “of connecting job seekers to better information on job availability.” It helps to make the application process that much more seamless, by pulling listings from both third-party boards and employers, and sending users who find a listing that interests them directly to the site where they can apply for it.

3) Google.ai

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 9.39.34 AM.png Source: Google

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of those inevitably cool areas of technology that’s talked about by many, but thoroughly understood by — or available to — few. That was part of the motivation behind the launch of Google.ai, or what TechCrunch describes as an “initiative to democratize the benefits of the latest in machine learning research.”

In a way, the site serves as a centralized resource for much of Google’s work in the realm of AI, from news and documentation on its latest projects and research, to opportunities to “play with” some of the experimental technology. Much like the open source software TensorFlow, which allows aspiring AI developers to create new applications, a major point of Google.ai is open access to the documentation that helps professionals from a variety of industries — like medicine and education — use AI to improve the work they do.

4) Google Assistant Is Coming to the iPhone

Some of the features announced during the I/O opening keynote either require or are heavily enhanced by Google Assistant — technology that previously wasn’t available to iPhone users. Now, that’s all changed. Google Assistant is, in fact, at the disposal of iPhone users, and available for download in the iTunes store.

Many are comparing the iOS version of Google Assistant to a slightly better, but underwhelming version of Siri. We took it for a spin, and here’s how it went:

Not bad, but it might also require a bit more tinkering with to discover all of the features. Its biggest advantage over Siri, writes Romain Dillet for TechCrunch, is its ability to let users “ask more complicated queries,” as well as its third-party integrations and connected device control capabilities.

5) New Google Home Features

screen-shot-2017-05-17-at-10-40-09-am.png Source: CNET

A number of new features available on Google Home were also unveiled during the I/O opening keynote — here are the ones that stood out.

Hands-free calling

Recently, it was announced that the Google Home had new voice recognition capabilities that could distinguish one user’s commands from another. That technology is now aiding its new hands-free calling feature, which allows you to call any U.S. or Canadian landline or mobile phone, by linking your mobile phone to your Google Home profile and asking the device to make the call. And, because of that voice recognition, it knows whose mother to call with the command, “Call Mom.”

Proactive Assistance

Like the best human personal assistance, Google Home can now proactively bring important things to your attention, without having to be asked. For example, if your next meeting requires a commute and traffic is bad, the device will suggest leaving a bit earlier. (Google Calendar users might recognize this feature from the more primitive “leave at X:00 to arrive on time” mobile alerts.)

Visual Responses

They say that “a picture is worth a thousand words” — because sometimes, information is better explained visually than verbally. Now, Google Home can do that, by redirecting a visual response to your mobile device or TV (via Chromecast). So if you ask the device for directions, for example, they’ll be sent directly to your phone.

6) Android O

Android O is a new version of the Android operating system which, while nothing too fancy, “focuses mostly on the nuts and bolts of making the software work better, faster and save battery,” according to CNET.

The publication does a nice job of breaking down the most important features of the new operating system, but to us, there’s one major highlight: picture-in-picture. We’ve all had those moments when we’re watching a video on YouTube and realize that there’s something else you’re supposed to be doing. Now, with Android O, instead of having to exit out of the app, just press the home button and the video will collapse into a smaller, movable window, but continue playing while you attend to the other task you have to complete.

7) From GPS to VPS

When you’re lost, or can’t figure out how to get somewhere, GPS has been there to save dozens of us. But what about misplaced objects — like when we’ve misplaced our keys, headphones, or sunglasses?

Now, there’s technology for that: the Visual Positioning Service, or VPS. Using Google’s Tango augmented reality (AR) platform, it’s a “mapping system that uses augmented reality on phones and tablets to help navigate indoor locations,” writes Raymond Wong for Mashable, using the example of holding up a Tango-enabled phone in a large warehouse store to locate a specific product.

One of the best parts of the VPS, Google noted, is its potential use to individuals who are visually impaired to help them find their way around places that are historically difficult to navigate.

8) Smart Replies Come to Gmail

When we return from vacation, one of the most daunting tasks is sifting through and responding to the deluge of emails that came in while we were out. Of course, there’s always the option of indicating to senders via auto-response that you’ll be deleting everything when you come back. But for those occasional urgent emails that arrive during our time of leave, many of us long for a more automated way to address them.

Now, there’s Smart Reply for that: a new Gmail feature that uses smart technology to suggests quick responses based on the text of the email you received. Here’s a look at how it works:

Smart_Reply_in_Gmail_Pixel_Gray_background.gif Source: Google

Right now, it’s only available in Inbox by Gmail and Allo, but according to Google’s official blog, the technology is slated to “roll out globally on Android and iOS in English first, and Spanish will follow in the coming weeks.”

9) Standalone VR Headsets

Google is no stranger to the world of VR. It started with Cardboard, some might say, and expanded into more advanced and expensive headsets. Now, in partnership with HTC and Lenovo, Google is developing its first standalone VR headset.

What does that mean, exactly? Previously, becoming fully immersed in Google’s VR experiences required the power of a computer or smartphone. Now, using something called WorldSense technology, these new standalone headsets can “track your precise movements in space,” according to VRScout, “without any external sensors to install.”

Until Next Time

We’ll be keeping an eye on all things Google, including the rest of the big announcements from I/O 2017. Next month, we’ll bring you those top news items, algorithm updates, and other trends that can aid your marketing.

Until then, enjoy those May flowers — we’ll see you in June.

Which I/O announcements are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments.

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Report: Google is bringing the Assistant to iOS users


It was only a matter of time: According to a report on Android Police, Google is planning on bringing the voice Assistant to iOS soon. This could happen as soon as Google’s I/O conference this week, but the exact timing isn’t clear. The report suggests the app would be a blend of the Assistant’s chat functionality – as seen in Google Allo – and the voice features in the main Google app. Of course, this being Apple and all, you won’t be able to set the Assistant as your main voice AI. Instead you’ll likely have to access it from…

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Tech in Africa: Uber expands mapping project, Google launches a startup bootcamp, and more


Kenyan mobile money service M-Pesa has long been held up as a prime example of African innovation, and has made its owner Safaricom a leader in the Kenyan telecoms space. However, it now has serious competition. The Kenya Bankers Association (KBA), the umbrella body of the banking industry, last month unveiled PesaLink, a digital payments platform it says will cut the cost of transactions and transform the way consumers interact with banks. PesaLink enables customers to make payments between banks in real-time, without having to go through intermediaries like M-Pesa. Mobile money has a challenger. Tech is being used in…

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Google harnesses machine learning to help publishers thwart abusive comments online

Abuse


Google and its early-stage incubator, Jigsaw, have launched a new tool that uses machine learning to help publishers combat online abuse.

With Perspective, Google is offering online publishers an API they can integrate into any of their platforms that facilitate user comments. Perspective taps a human-generated database of comments that have already been tagged as abusive or toxic. Through the API, publishers can connect their own comments with the hundreds of thousands on Google’s database, and Perspective then rates them based on how similar they are to those previously flagged. Perspective facilities corrections from users, too, so it should improve as it receives more feedback from people using it.

The Perspective API essentially provides the data, and publishers can elect to use this data in different ways. Comments could be flagged by publishers to be manually reviewed by moderators or by members of the community, alternatively, a publisher could decide to illustrate to a commenter in real time that what they’re writing is abusive:

Perspective

Above: Perspective

Online abuse has been a problem since the advent of the web, with many publishers ultimately ditching comments sections due to the difficulties in policing them. Earlier this month, Amazon-owned IMDb shuttered its comments section after years of battling toxicity. The IMDb board has now resurfaced on Reddit (good luck with that).

While most comments sections have a community-led approach for flagging abuse, and many are already able to filter out comments that contain profanities, being able to tap a gargantuan database of pre-flagged comments should prove helpful. And as more publishers pick up on it, Perspective will gain access to additional comments, which should accelerate improvement. Perspective is also now part of Google’s open-source software library, TensorFlow, and its cloud Machine Learning platform.

Google’s latest initiative comes at a time when technology companies are increasingly investing in anti-abuse smarts. Just last week, Twitter unveiled a slew of new tools to battle trolls, while back in August Microsoft announced a similar initiative.

Google says it has been testing Perspective with the New York Times, which has a team dedicated to sifting through comments before they go live — manually fielding some 11,000 comments daily.

“This problem doesn’t just impact online readers,” explained Jigsaw president Jared Cohen, in a blog post. “News organizations want to encourage engagement and discussion around their content but find that sorting through millions of comments to find those that are trolling or abusive takes a lot of money, labor, and time. As a result, many sites have shut down comments altogether. But they tell us that isn’t the solution they want. We think technology can help.”

Though the focus of Perspective is on abuse, for now, the technology could also be appropriated for other types of comments. “Over the next year we’re keen to partner and deliver new models that work in languages other than English ,as well as models that can identify other perspectives, such as when comments are unsubstantial or off-topic,” added Cohen.

Social – VentureBeat

Google and Facebook to help French newsrooms combat ‘fake news’ ahead of presidential election

Google / Google France


Google and Facebook are to help a host of French news organizations combat the growing scourge of fake news ahead of the upcoming French presidential election campaign.

With CrossCheck, Google has partnered with First Draft and Facebook to support a coalition of notable newsrooms — including Le Monde, Agence France-Presse (AFP), France Télévisions, BuzzFeed, Global Voices, and Les Echos — to help the French electorate “make sense of what and who to trust in their social media feeds, web searches, and general online news consumption,” according to David Dieudonné, Google’s News Lab lead in France.

“With combined expertise from across media and technology, CrossCheck aims to ensure hoaxes, rumours, and false claims are swiftly debunked, and misleading or confusing stories are accurately reported,” said Dieudonné. “With the French presidential election approaching, journalists from across France and beyond will work together to find and verify content circulating publicly online, whether it is photographs, videos, memes, comment threads, or news sites.”

Though it’s far from a new phenomenon, the “fake news” problem has received renewed attention in the wake of two notable political events in the past twelve months — Brexit and the U.S. presidency. The extent to which hoaxes and fake news articles influenced the outcome of those political campaigns is up for debate, but technology companies and news organizations are embracing new tools as concerns grow over the online spread of false information, or “alternative facts.”

Already this year, Le Monde has launched an anti-fake news platform constituting a suite of fact-checking products powered by a database of hundreds of “unreliable” source websites. And Facebook, for its part, has already introduced fake-news thwarting tools in some countries, including Germany. Moreover, back in November, Facebook acquired CrowdTangle, an analytics tool that tracks how links are shared on social media services — which could help measure the spread of viral content. Facebook’s support of CrossCheck will also include broader “media literacy efforts that will help to explain the [news] verification process” while keeping “relevant audiences up to date with confirmed and disputed information relating to the election,” according to First Draft.

Google too has been pushing to help stymie the spread of false information online, and last September it partnered with First Draft and other news organizations to launch Electionland ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

The French presidential election takes place on April 23, 2017, and if no candidate wins a majority, a follow-up election between the top two candidates will take place two weeks later. Now with CrossCheck, news organizations will be able to tap collectively fact-checked sources for their own articles and broadcasts.

However, it’s not entirely clear whether any of this will ultimately make much difference, given the belief held by some that people don’t make decision based on facts.

Social – VentureBeat

Google commits up to $4 million to help those impacted by Trump’s immigration order

Google CEO Sundar Pichai


As part of the largest crisis campaign of its company history, Google is expected to raise $ 4 million in support of people affected by President Trump’s immigration order, which was announced Friday.

News of Google’s campaign follows statements against the controversial ban by company CEO Sundar Pichai and the participation of its co-founder Sergey Brin in a protest at San Francisco International Airport, USA Today reports.

The $ 4 million—a composite of a $ 2 million fund put up by Google, and up to $ 2 million more in employee donations—will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the International Rescue Committee and the United Nation’s refugee agency (UNHCR.)

According to Pichai, Trump’s controversial order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. affects 187 members of Google’s staff alone.

“We’re concerned about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that could create barriers to bringing great talent to the U.S.,” he said in a statement. “We’ll continue to make our views on these issues known to leaders in Washington and elsewhere.”

Google is not the only tech company to speak out against Trump’s order.

Facebook, Apple, Lyft, and Uber have voiced varying degrees of alarm, Fortune’s Tory Newmyer reported Sunday.

Executives at Tesla Motors, Netflix and Airbnb (airbnb) have also denounced the policy. The latter announced this weekend it would offer free accommodation for refugees and others affected by the clampdown.

“Barring refugees and people who are not a threat from entering America simply because they are from a certain country is not right, and we must stand with those who are affected. The doors to America shall remain open, and any that are locked will not be for long,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote on a note to employees posted on the company’s website, Sunday.

This story originally appeared on Fortune.com. Copyright 2017

Social – VentureBeat

Facebook takes on Google Doodle with News Feed messages


Google’s Doodles are a simple but effective way for the search engine to mark holidays and current events without interrupting the search experience. Now Facebook is revealing its own take with News Feed messages about holidays and events. The messages show up atop your feed, and like Google Doodles, they may be themed around holidays or specific moments in history. However, Facebook seems to be placing a larger emphasis around current events as well, highlighting interesting things happening in local communities. In one example, Facebook suggests you check out the supermoon, along with a link explaining what’s so special about…

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Twitter shares jump more than 20% on reports of possible acquisition by Google or Salesforce

At the Twitter Flight developer conference in San Francisco on Oct. 21.


It’s no secret that Twitter is open to acquisition offers, but a new report suggests that the social network has received expressions of interest from at least two notable tech companies — Google and Salesforce.

According to CNBC, Twitter may receive a formal bid “shortly,” with Twitter’s board keen to strike a deal. Though no actual sale is imminent, according to the report, CNBC cites a source as saying that talks are gaining momentum, and something could materialize by end of the year.

Twitter has been suffering growing pains of late, both in terms of user numbers and revenues, which has fueled speculation that an exit to a larger company would be a likely outcome. Twitter’s shares have pretty much been in perpetual freefall over the past couple of years, dropping from a $ 69 high in early 2014 to about $ 14 in May this year. At close of markets yesterday, Twitter’s shares were sitting at $ 18.49, but at the time of writing they’re at more than $ 22, a rise in excess of 20 percent on yesterday. Notably, it’s also the highest Twitter’s shares have been since January this year.

TwitterShares20

While companies such as Google and Microsoft have long been touted as potential buyers, the addition of Salesforce to the mix is interesting — it doesn’t seem like a natural fit on the surface. Why would an enterprise SaaS company wish to procure a platform synonymous with bite-sized nuggets of information and trolls? Well, Salesforce is known to have missed out on acquiring LinkedIn — which went to Microsoft — so Twitter could offer a way for Salesforce to become more active in the real-time information realm. Of course, it would have to focus any product on business use-cases. Long story short, Twitter is a tempting target due to the masses of data it holds, and this pretty much means it’s an alluring proposition for any firm that feeds on data. That said, it’s hard to imagine a world in which Twitter is owned by Salesforce.

While Twitter’s shares are gearing up to reach their highest point in 2016, Salesforce shares actually hit a six-month low after this news dropped. Make of that what you will…

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Deals – VentureBeat

Google hits back at Microsoft with improved Chrome battery test on Surface Book


We’ve said time and time again that Chrome is a battery hog, and a couple of months  ago, Microsoft released a browser test a Surface Book that really drove the point home. Naturally, the test was meant to promote Edge, but it also just pointed out how bad Chrome is; where Edge got over 7 hours of battery life, Chrome only managed over 4 hours in a looping video test. For overall browsing, Edge showed up to 53 percent better battery life. But now Google is showing off some of the improvements it’s made, and testing the browser on the same Surface Book laptops…

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