Google I/O is here once again. Yesterday, the Google executives announced many new software features for different products on the big stage. Let’s see what the tech giant unveiled.
Google Lens is a “term” for a new software feature that will be included in several apps. It is not a stand-alone app, rather, it will be baked into the Google Assistant, as well as Google Photos. Lens aims to be an “artificial intelligence” service for your camera. Lens is accessible through Google Assistant, where you can point your camera at an object, and Lens will attempt to identify that object. Google used the example of pointing your camera at a flower to instantly identify the type of flower. It also can add events to your calendar and help you buy tickets to a concert if you point Lens at a concert poster or theater marquee. It’s similar to Samsung’s Bixby Vision, but it’s clear that Google was working on this long before Samsung announced the feature. After all, Bixby Vision can’t add items to your calendar or help you buy concert tickets! Lens will also be featured in Google Photos as a way to instantly search your photos for information (such as getting facts on that famous painting you snapped a pic of). Overall, Lens is one of our favorite products announced at I/O.
Google Home Improvements
I’ve said this once, I’ll say it again: the Alexa steam roll is coming for Google. Fast. Recently, we learned that Amazon’s Echo holds 70% of the market, compared to Google’s 23.8% slice of the pie. On top of that, the Google Home has lacked features. Not only is it slim on 3rd party features (called “Assistant apps”), it lacks the ability to create calendar events and reminders. With so many key features missing, it’s no surprise that the Amazon Echo is doing better than ever. Yesterday, Google stepped up the game. First, they announced the ability to create calendar events with the ability to add reminders coming soon. Next, they showed off “Proactive Assistant,” which is Google’s fancy term for notifications. For now, Google is starting out with stuff like reminders for upcoming calendar events. Your Google Home won’t start creepily talking to you without warning, though. It will display a light indicator to let you know that there are notifications, and you can ask it to read them. Among other features, Google also announced hands-free calling. When Google does something, they tend to do it much better than their competitors. In the case of this feature, no setup is required for hands-free calling. It is 100% free, and it will dial people from a private number (with the option to add your phone number in settings). Google also added Spotify Free as a music option, which is a big deal, as the Amazon Echo requires you to have a Spotify Premium account for any Spotify functionality. Thanks to yesterday’s announcements, the Google Home is back on the map as a serious Amazon Echo competitor.
Google Photos Improvements
Google focused on AI as a whole with the new features in Google Photos. Smart Sharing is a new feature that aims to identify “good” photos of a particular person. Once the algorithm builds a list of photos, it will send a notification asking if you want to share those photos with the people in them. In addition, users can print photo books right from within the app. Right now it’s more of a “beta” version, which is only available on the web version of Google Photos. In the future, Photo Books will allow you to select a group of up to one hundred photos from an event or day, and Google’s AI will automatically weed through the duplicates, blurry photos, and generally unexciting ones. It will leave you with the ones it thinks are print-ready material. Soft cover books are just $9.99, and hardcover books are $19.99. If this feature works like Google claims, it sounds amazing. I’m sure most people would pay $10-20 for a photo book of their vacation that is easy to make. People aren’t going to spend time uploading, arranging, and organizing photos on other websites only to spend more money on costly printing fees and shipping. Google has found a genius way to make a quick buck while providing users with a golden feature.
Google announced some new YouTube features at I/O. The Super Chat API for developers builds on an already awesome concept. Super Chat is a way for fans to pay money for their chat message to stay visible in the chat box of a live stream for a certain amount of time. Google takes this a step further with the new Super Chat API. Want to toggle the lights to flash like a disco party in the content creator’s house? Now the Super Chat API makes this possible. It sounds like an IFTTT type of feature. Once developers have added support, creators could set up something such as “if someone sends a Super Chat of $10 or more, blink my Hue lights green.” It’s a fun way for users to interact with creators in the real world, and I like what Google is doing.
Android O is right around the corner. Sadly, Google didn’t announce what “O” stands for yesterday (although many of us think it is “Oreo”). The spot in the keynote focused on security, OS optimization, and battery life. Android O is an incremental update, and there are no groundbreaking new features. Smart Text Selection is probably the most significant feature, which gives users smart suggestions based on what they highlight. If a user highlights an address, they have an option to go right to Google Maps. If they highlight a phone number, they have the option to call it. Google also talked about Android Go, which is a new lightweight version of Android for phones with low specs.
What is your favorite thing Google announced at I/O? Drop a comment below!