Google wrapped up the 2018 edition of its IO developer conference in Mountain View on May 10th. The three-day conference provided us with a whole lot to look forward to from Google, so let's take a look at some of the most exciting announcements.
Google Assistant is evolving
Google Assistant has been getting smarter in recent years, but at the 2018 conference, Google demonstrated just how far we have come. The next generation of Google Assistant will include Google Duplex; a piece of AI technology which will be able to handle phone calls with real human beings.
Google says that the days of wasting time making simple reservations and chasing up order information may be behind us thanks to Duplex, and, when the conference attendees listened to Duplex in action, they were not able to tell the difference between the real human speaker and the AI. Google has built a number of 'true to life' mannerisms into Duplex, all of which contribute to a scarily convincing effect.
There were also a couple of other announcements regarding Google Assistant. It is being relaunched with a new interface, one not dissimilar to that of the defunct Google Now. Assistant is also being made available on the Google Wear operating system, which will mean that owners of wearable technology will be able to get the best out of their devices. In addition, Google has said that several celebrity voices - including that of vocal sensation John Legend - will be available for download. If you have been waiting for the chance to employ a celebrity as your PA, now is your time.
Google Assistant will power Google's Smart Display devices, in addition to user mobile devices. These Smart Display devices - produced by Chinese tech company Lenovo, as well as LG, Sony and JBL, will be released in July.
Big changes to the Gmail structure, including Smart Compose
Gmail has been one of Google's staple apps for over a decade, and, other than a few small tweaks and alterations here and there, not too much has changed in that time. In 2018, however, we can expect to see several major changes to Gmail, as Google seeks to strengthen their position at the top of the personal email tree.
Smart Compose is a major new feature of Gmail. Working in a similar way to Autocorrect, Smart Compose will suggest sentences and will help you complete the emails you write. If this similarity to Autocorrect sounds a little worrying, just consider the amount of data which Google has to draw upon. Smart Compose is certain to be considerably more effective than its rival.
Google Lens and Google Maps integration
For a generation of casual navigators, eager to find their way in a new city, or to get to this new restaurant their friends told them about, Google Maps changed everything. Already an incredibly useful application, Maps is about to have its functionality enhanced even further by the integration of Google Lens.
Users will be able to bring up a Google Lens street view when they point the phone in a certain direction, keeping the Google Maps data in the bottom portion of the screen for effortless navigation.
When this feature was unveiled at Google's IO demo, those in attendance were suitably impressed. The software looked almost ready to roll, however, Google did not provide any release date or timeframe, so we could still be some way away from enjoying this integrated functionality for ourselves.
Android P OS is on its way
It has been a few months since Android P - version number nine in the long line of Android Operating Systems - was announced. At IO 2018, Google took the opportunity to unveil increased accessibility for the beta version of the OS, extending compatibility to the following devices;
- Google Pixel
- Google Pixel XL
- Google Pixel 2
- Google Pixel 2 XL
- Nokia 7 Plus
- Sony Xperia XZ2
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S
- Vivo X21
- Oppo R15 Pro
- OnePlus 6
If you have any of these devices, you will be able to begin enjoying what Android P has to offer before everyone else.
A slew of great features for Android P, and some nav design changes
Android P does look to be a solid addition to the OS family. A smarter approach to application usage enables an extended battery life and less strain placed on the device's CPU, which will be welcome news for anyone looking to get a little bit more out of their device's battery.
This smart approach extends to the screen brightness also, with the introduction of adaptive brightness which adjusts to suit the environment and also any actions the user is taking. Smarter application suggestions are also built into OS; for example, if you plug your headphones into your device, the OS will suggest your most often used music app.
All of this additional functionality is packed into a slick and straightforward UI which has been updated for the new version. Intuitive commands include the single swipe up for most recently used apps, and the long swipe to bring up the rest of your available apps. This is characteristic of gorgeously designed interface platform from which everything can be reached with ease.
Tweaks to optimise mobile functionality
The volume slider on Google mobile devices has been a cause for complaint from some. Google has fixed this by including a small and unintrusive volume display on the home screen, so that users always know what volume their device is at, avoiding any nasty surprises.
App use tracking
Users will soon be able to track their usage of apps via a dashboard built into the device's OS. This will be an important development for those concerned that they spend too much time on their phone, or too much time on certain apps - such as social media applications or games.
From this dashboard, users will have the option to set an app timer, directly informing them that they have spent a certain amount of time on a particular app.Which new features and releases are you most looking forward to?