Google's Assistant Gets 'Mindblowing' Upgrade

And more from the tech giant's annual developers' conference
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 8, 2018 6:10 PM CDT
Updated May 9, 2018 1:33 AM CDT

Google showcased its plans for the next several months as it kicked off its annual developers' conference Tuesday, the AP reports. Many of the new features center on the use of artificial intelligence to help save time. Highlights:

  • Google Duplex: This service will use Google's digital assistant to take on the task of making appointments and other tedious calls with actual people at businesses. In two demonstrations—one setting up a hair appointment, the other a restaurant reservation—a realistic-sounding automated voice used pauses and "ums" and "mmm-hmms" to sound more human during interactions with people. Google says the technology is rolling out as "an experiment" in coming weeks. (This piece was getting some of the biggest attention online, with commenters calling the demo "stunning" and "mindblowing" and saying it "really feels like next-level AI stuff.")

  • Google Assistant: Google's digital assistant will get six new voices, including one based on that of singer John Legend, later this year. The voices aim to sound more natural and will include pauses that convey meaning. Google is also unveiling ways to let you issue multiple commands without having to say "Hey Google" each time. And it will reward kids who say "please," similar to a feature Amazon is bringing to its Alexa voice assistant.
  • Lens: Google's visual assistant will be built into the camera. Just point the camera at a building or sign to get more information. Or copy text from images of menus, documents and other sources into another app on your phone.
  • Android P: The version of Google's Android phone software will infuse basic functions with AI smarts. The battery will adapt to how you use apps in order to conserve energy. "Adaptive brightness" will learn how bright you like your screen based on manual adjustments, instead of automatically adjusting based on the how bright it is.
  • Well-being: Android P also includes features to combat overuse. A "shush" mode automatically turns on the "Do Not Disturb" mode when you turn your phone face down on a table. And "Wind Down Mode" will fade the screen to greyscale at a designated bed time to help you disconnect before bed.
  • Maps: Google will use augmented reality to help guide you to your destination. When you pull up directions on Google Maps, you can look through the camera and get turn-by-turn directions while viewing the actual street. The app will also orient you and verify your position using local landmarks such as buildings and shops viewed through the camera. Google calls the technology VPS, or visual positioning system.
Click for more from the conference, including changes to photos, Gmail, and Google News. (More Google stories.)

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