A lot happens at Google I/O, the tech giant’s own 3-day conference just for announcing upcoming projects and products, and while some of it is hyper-technical panels and fireside chats about things like TensorFlow, there’s always a keynote jam-packed with announcements that affect the lives of millions of people, seeing as almost all of us use at least one Google product. Or, you’re like me and have had your Gmail address since it was in beta when you were eleven years old, and now your life revolves Stockholm-syndrome-style around the company.
Here are just a few of the major announcements:
Android P, Please
The next iteration of Google’s mobile operating system is getting some big overhauls, including getting rid of its iconic row of home, recent apps, and back buttons in favor of suspiciously iPhone X-like gesture controls. Swipe up to bring up a row of (live!) cards representing your open apps, along with launcher buttons for “predicted apps”. There’s “App Actions” and “Slices”, which uses AI (there’s a lot of that in Android P) to figure out what actions you take most often in apps and serve you direct links to those actions when you search for apps or plug in your headphones. Smart notifications, adaptive battery and brightness, and a host of performance updates and others are coming as well. All this may make your phone last longer, and make you want to stay on it even longer! However…
Google sees you staying up all night on Twitter and Instagram and wants to talk to you about your problems. In Android P Google will be introducing a set of tools and software for tracking your “digital wellbeing”. A dashboard will show you just how much time you spend in certain apps, and even allow you to set limits, after which your phone will chastise you when you try to open them. “Do Not Disturb” is getting a bit more literal, disabling all visual indicators and notifications and adding a mode where you’ll be able to flip the phone onto its face to activate the mode automatically. Lastly, Android P is getting a “Wind Down” feature, whereas the day goes on your phone will reduce the amount of blue light the screen emits, show to improve your ability to fall asleep, and even turn grayscale to combat the enticing color palettes of our daily apps.
AI to do the talking for you
Google continues its march towards consumer AI supremacy with the release of Gmail’s “Smart Compose” feature, which will essentially act as an auto-complete for entire emails. As you type, AI will suggest entire sentences to follow up with, by scanning your previous emails and using its own database of similar emails. A classic example of “I don’t like how this works but also I must hit inbox zero or I will lose my mind”.
Additionally creepy is Google showcasing its Duplex AI being able to carry out a full phone conversation with ease. Again, this tech is great for those of us who are socially anxious but does raise some serious ethical complications.
Re-do on the News
The last major announcement to look at is Google’s complete revamp of Google News, the popular news aggregation site, this time incorporating — you guessed it — artificial intelligence. AI will now trawl the world’s news and organize, categorize, and even fact-check it, putting it into a new clean interface that will hopefully replace Google Newsstand. Like the Duplex AI, this raises some serious concerns about what Google considers “real news” and how that might affect us all, but we’ll have to wait and see.
All Hail our Alphabet Overlords
As a tech consumer there’s a lot to be interested in from Google I/O this year, but in a year when we’re all seriously contemplating what services we use and why, there’s something to be said for some healthy skepticism regarding the world’s largest information provider handing the reigns increasingly over to artificial intelligence, as even they can’t predict where that’ll take us.
Can’t wait until next year!