Google I/O was full of announcements about upcoming products and enhancements. The most notable, such as Google Assistant and Google Home, revolved around Artificial Intelligence.
Weâ€™re in a seminal moment, said Google chief executive (CEO) Sundar Pichai kicking off the companyâ€™s annual I/O Conference in San Francisco.Â Looking back at the past 17 years, Pichai discussed Googleâ€™s evolution to the live audience of 7,000. As technology gets more sophisticated, he sees artificial intelligence (AI) playing a huge role in the companyâ€™s next 17 years.Â â€œLeveraging our state-of-the-art capabilities in machine learning and AI, we truly want to take the next step in being more assistive to our user. Today, we are announcing the Google Assistant,â€ said Pichai, one of the only peopleÂ in the world whoâ€™sÂ allowed to use the â€œLâ€ word onÂ Search Engine Watch. â€œWe think of it as building each user their own individual Google.â€
Right now, 20% of Google searches are queried by voice. Google Assistant is the next step in that, combining voice search with the rest of Googleâ€™s AI capabilities. For example, if you were standing in front of that giant bean in Chicago, you could ask, â€œWho designed this?â€ without any mention of where you are; Google already knows.
What separates Google Assistant from other digital assistants is its various integrations, including Uber, Fandango and OpenTable. While Siri can tell youÂ what timeÂ The Jungle BookÂ is playing,Â you canâ€™t actually purchase tickets through her.
Another new product is Google Home,Â the search giantâ€™s answer to the Amazon Echo. Like Alexa, Google Home â€“ which is customizable with different fabrics, materials and colors to match your home aesthetic â€“ can play music and TV shows, and control various aspects of your connectedÂ home.Â â€œWhat makes Google Home really shine is that it has search built in,â€ addedÂ Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management at Google. â€œIt draws on 17 years of innovation to answer questions, which are difficult for other assistants to handle.â€
Google Home is meant to beÂ a more intelligent version of AI, able to answer both your generic (â€œHow much fat is an avocado?â€) and personal (â€œWhat time is my flight on Sunday?â€) questions. That same level of personalization will be applied to Allo, aÂ messaging appÂ thatÂ will be availableÂ this summer.
Allo is a bit like the GIF-heavy Peach app (RIP) with Googleâ€™s AI built in. The suggested responses will be, rather than canned replies,Â based on what your past responses have been, to both text and images.Â e more you use Allo, the better the suggestions become. The suggestions will be unique to you,â€ said Erik Kay, Googleâ€™s engineering director.
Other features include a built-in Google Assistant â€“ which allows youÂ to book a restaurant on OpenTable directly in the app while messaging, for instance â€“ and Whisper and Shout, complementary features that amplify your reaction, making it larger or smaller.
OtherÂ highlights from the Google I/O keynote include:
- An upcoming video calling app, Duo, willÂ includes a live stream of the person calling, allowing you to potentially gauge their mood.Â For instance, if my boss Graham was calling me with Duo, Iâ€™d be able to see if he looked really angry andÂ ready to yell at meÂ for using the word â€œleverageâ€ earlier.
- More details of Android N were revealed. Among them are the introduction of the Vulkan graphics API to Googleâ€™s mobile platform; a â€œClear Allâ€ button to simultaneously dismiss all active apps; and split-screen and picture-in-picture modes for multitasking.
- Google is building a virtual reality (VR) platform, Daydream, on top of Android N.Â Unlike Cardboard, which works with any smartphone, Daydream will only work on new phones with specially-built sensors and screens.Â The platform will include VR versions of Google properties such as YouTube, StreetView, and Play Movies, in addition to Netflix and Electronic Arts.
- Android Wear, Googleâ€™s smart watch, will be updated to include a tiny keyboard, the ability to show data from any application, and automatic activity activation. For example, if you start running,Â an icon will pop up asking if you want to play your workout playlist on Spotify.
- Google has also announced a new mobile analytics platform, which Sophie Loras has covered in detail here: Google launches Firebox.
Looking forward to the Day 3 of Google I/O Conference.