This year’s Google IO 2019 was meant to be big, and it didn’t disappoint at all. There’s a lot of big news to talk about as it introduced and showcased exciting new products, updates, features and functionalities for a much better user experience. Google I/O kicked off yesterday and it will run through Thursday May 9 at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. It has approximately 7000 attendees from all around the world.
“To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. We are moving from a company that helps you find answers to a company that helps you get things done. Our goal is to build a more helpful Google for everyone.” Sundar Pichai, Google CEO commenced his Keynote session with such strong statements.
He further listed a few recent tech advances and said “We continue to believe that the biggest breakthroughs happen at the intersection of AI.” He then went on to discuss how Google is confident that it can do more AI without private data leaving your devices, and that the heart of the solution will be federated learning.
Basically, federated learning is a distributed machine learning approach which enables model training on a large corpus of decentralized data. It enables mobile phones at different geographical locations to collaboratively train a machine learning model without transferring any data that may contain personal information from the devices.
While the keynote lasted for nearly two hours, some of the breakthrough innovation in tech were introduced which will be briefed in detail moving ahead in the article.
Google Search at Google IO 2019
Google remains a search giant, and that’s something it has not forgotten at Google IO 2019. However, search is about to become far more visually rich, thanks to the inclusion of AR camera trick which is now introduced directly into search results.
They held an on-stage demonstration at Google IO which showed how a medical student could search for a muscle group, and be presented within mobile search results with a 3D representation of the body part. Not only could it be played with within the search results, it could be placed on the user’s desk to be seen at real scale from their smartphone’s screen.
And even larger things, like an AR shark, could be put into your AR screen, straight from the app. The Google team showcased this feature as the shark virtually appeared live in front of the audience.
Google Lens bill splitting and food recommendations
Google Lens was something which caught audience’s interest in the Google’s App arsenal. Lens was presented in a way that it can use image recognition to deliver information based on what your camera is looking at.
A demo was shown on how a combination of mapping data and image recognition will let Google Lens make recommendations from a restaurant’s menu, just by pointing your camera at it. And when the bill arrives, point your camera at the receipt and it’ll show you tipping info and bill splitting help. They also announced their partnership with recipe providers to allow Lens to produce video tutorials when your phone is pointed at a written recipe.
Debut of Android Q beta 3 version
At Google IO Android Q beta 3 was introduced, it is the 10th generation of the Android operating system, and it comes with new features for phone and tablet users. Google announced that there are over 2.5 billion active Android devices as the software extends to televisions, in-car systems and smart screens like the Google Home Hub.
Further it was discussed how the Android will work with foldable devices, and how it will be able to seamlessly tweak its UI depending on the format and ratio of the folding device. Another new feature of live caption system in Android Q will turn audio instantly into text to be read. It’s a system function triggered within the volume rocker menu. They can be tweaked for legibility to your eyes, doesn’t require an internet connection, and happens on videos that have never been manually close-captioned. It’s at an OS level, letting it work across all your apps.
The smart reply feature will now work across all messaging apps in Android Q, with the OS smartly predicting your text. The Dark Theme activated by battery saver or the quick tile was introduced. Lighting up less pixels in your phone will save its battery life.
Android Q will also double down on security and privacy features, such as a Maps incognito mode, reminders for location usage and sharing (such as only when a delivery app is in use), and TLSV3 encryption for low end devices. Security updates will roll out faster too, updating over the air without a reboot needed for the device. With Android Q Beta 3 which will be launched today on 21 new devices, Google also announced that it will make Kotlin, a statically typed programming language for writing its Android apps.
Chrome to be more transparent in terms of cookie control
Google announced that it will update Chrome to provide users with more transparency about how sites are using cookies, as well as simpler controls for cross-site cookies. A number of changes will be made to Chrome to enable features, like modifying how cookies work so that developers need to explicitly specify which cookies are allowed to work across websites — and could be used to track users. The mechanism is built on the web’s SameSite cookie attribute and you can find the technical details on web.dev.
In the coming months, Chrome will require developers to use this mechanism to access their cookies across sites. This change will enable users to clear all such cookies while leaving single domain cookies unaffected, preserving user logins and settings. It will also enable browsers to provide clear information about which sites are setting these cookies, so users can make informed choices about how their data is used.
This change also has a significant security benefit for users, protecting cookies from cross-site injection and data disclosure attacks like Spectre and CSRF by default. They further announced that they will eventually limit cross-site cookies to HTTPS connections, providing additional important privacy protections for our users.
Developers can start to test their sites and see how these changes will affect behavior in the latest developer build of Chrome.
They have also announced Flutter for web, mobile and desktop. It will allow web-based applications to be built using the Flutter framework. The core framework for mobile devices will be upgraded to Flutter 1.5. And for the desktop, Flutter will be used as an experimental project.
“We believe these changes will help improve user privacy and security on the web — but we know that it will take time. We’re committed to working with the web ecosystem to understand how Chrome can continue to support these positive use cases and to build a better web.” says Ben Galbraith – Director, Chrome Product Management and Justin Schuh – Director, Chrome Engineering
Next generation Google Assistant
Google has been working hard to compress and streamline the AI that Google Assistant taps into from the cloud when it is processing voice commands. Currently every voice request has to be run through three separate processing models to land on the correctly-understood voice command. It is only data that until now has taken up 100GB of storage on many Google servers.
But that’s about to change. As Google has figured how to shrink that down to just 500MB of storage space, and to put it on your device. This will help lower the latency between your voice request and the task you’ve wished to trigger being carried out. It’s 10x faster – ‘real time’, according to Google.
It also showed a demo where, a Google rep fired off a string of voice commands that required Google Assistant to access multiple apps, execute specific actions, and understand not only what the rep was saying, but what she actually meant. For example she said, “Hey Google, what’s the weather today? What about tomorrow? Show me John Legend on Twitter; Get a Lyft ride to my hotel; turn the flashlight on; turn it off; take a selfie.” Assistant executed the whole sequence flawlessly, in a span of about 15 seconds.
Further demos showed off its ability to compose texts and emails that drew on information about the user’s travel plans, traffic conditions, and photos. And last but not the least it can also silence your alarms and timers by just saying ‘Stop’ to help you go back to your slumber.
Google Duplex gets smarter
Google Duplex is a Google Assistant service which earlier use to make calls and bookings on your behalf based on the requests. But now It’s getting more smarter as it comes with the new ‘Duplex on the web’ feature. Now you can ask Google Duplex to plan a trip, and it’ll begin filling in website forms such as reservation details, hire car bookings and more, on your behalf. And it only awaits you to confirm the details it has input.
Google Home Hub is dead, Long live the Nest Hub Max
At Google IO, the company announced it was dropping the Google Home moniker, instead rebranding its devices with the Nest name, bringing them in line with its security systems.
The Nest Hub Max was introduced, with a camera and larger 10-inch display. With a built-in Nest Cam wide-angle lens security camera (127 degrees), which the original Home Hub omitted due to privacy concerns, it’s now a far more security-focussed device. It also lets you make video calls using a wide range of video calling apps. Cameras and mics can be physically switched off with a slider that cuts off the electronics, for the privacy-conscious.
Voice and Face match features, allowing families to create voice and face models, will let the Hub Max know to only show an individual’s information or recommendations. It’ll also double up as a kitchen TV, if you’ve access to YouTube TV plans, and lowering the volume is as simple as raising your hand in front of the display.
It’ll be launched this summer for $229 in the US, and AU$349 in Australia. The original Hub also gets a price cut to $129 / AU$199.
Other honorable mentions
- Google Stadia: Google had introduced its new game-streaming service, called Stadia in March. The service uses Google’s own servers to store and run games, which you can then connect to and play whenever you’d like on literally any screen in your house including your desktop, laptop, TV, phone and tablet. Basically, if it’s internet-connected and has access to Chrome, it can run Stadia. Today at I/O they announced that Stadia will not only stream games from the cloud to the Chrome browser but on the Chromecast, and other Pixel and Android devices. They plan to launch ahead this year in the US, Canada, UK, and Europe.
- A cheaper Pixel phone: While other smartphones are getting more competitive in terms of pricing, Google introduced its new Pixel 3a which is less powerful than the existing Pixel 3, and at a base price of $399, which is half as expensive as Pixel 3. In 2017 Forbes had done an analysis on why Google Pixel failed in the market and one of the reason was its exorbitant high price. It states that the tech giant needs to come to the realization that its brand in the phone hardware business is just not worth as much as Samsung’s or Apple’s that it can command the same price premium.
- “Focus mode:” A new feature coming to Android P and Q devices this summer will let you turn off your most distracting apps to focus on a task, while still allowing text messages, calls, and other important notifications through.
- Augmented reality in Google Maps: AR is one of those technologies that always seems to impress the tech companies that make it more than it impresses their actual users. But Google may finally be finding some practical uses for it, like overlaying walking directions when you hold up your phone’s camera to the street in front of you.
- Incognito mode for Google Maps: It also announced a new “incognito” mode for Google Maps, which will stop keeping records of your whereabouts while it’s enabled. And they will further roll out this feature in Google Search and YouTube.