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Google CEO Sundar Pichai. (AFP)
Google CEO Sundar Pichai. (AFP)

Google I/O 2019 highlights: Affordable Pixels, Android Q, better Assistant

  • The conference, attended by about 7,000 computer programmers, is part of Pichai's efforts to diversify Google beyond its roots as a search
  • Google will allow users of its digital maps to cloak their identities to prevent their locations from being recorded

Google's first major event of the year kicked off Tuesday in Mountain View, California. Sundar Pichai, CEO-Google, showcased the much-anticipated updates to the company's hardware lines and artificial intelligence. He commenced his keynote by reiterating his intention to come up with more features to help make people's live easier.

The conference, attended by about 7,000 computer programmers, is part of Pichai's efforts to diversify Google beyond its roots as a search. Here are the top highlights from the Google I/O 2019:

Google Assistant

Google Assistant now lets you book rental cars and movie tickets for you. Google says Assistant will be able to book cars and tickets using online forms on Android phones later this year.

The technology behind this, called Duplex, was released last year amid much fanfare and some worries about its ability to sound creepily human when calling restaurant to make reservations.

Cool search features

Google Lens' new translation feature in action.
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Google Lens' new translation feature in action.

Google unveiled augmented reality technology that enables users to view renderings of some specialized visual search results, such as a model of a whale, in their environment through their smartphone cameras.

Google also introduced updates in its Lens app which allows translation of text in real time. So you can point your smartphone to a poster in Spanish via Google Lens and it will overlay the translated text over Spanish text.

Google is also working with partners like NASA, New Balance, Samsung, Target, Visible Body, Volvo, Wayfair and more to surface their own content in Search. Commenting on this, Google VP Aparna Chennapragada said "whether you’re studying human anatomy in school or shopping for a pair of sneakers, you’ll be able to interact with 3D models and put them into the real world, right from Search."

Incognito

Google will allow users of its digital maps to cloak their identities to prevent their locations from being recorded.

The new privacy control called "Incognito" is being offered by Google as tech companies face intensifying scrutiny over the amount of user information they collect and sell for advertising. Facebook dedicated much of its own conference last week to connecting people though more private channels rather than broadly on the social network.

Incognito has long been offered on various browsers, including Google's Chrome, though that may get overridden when people sign in to a Google or other account.

Google also showed off recently announced auto-delete features. The tools let people set a time limit for how long their location history will be saved before it is deleted.

Google has also added a one-tap access to privacy features called "Manage your account" in its apps including Maps, YouTube, News, Assistant and Chrome.

Android Q

Stephanie Cuthbertson, senior director of Android at Google, discusses the mobile operating system during the Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, U.S. May 7, 2019.  REUTERS/Paresh Dave
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Stephanie Cuthbertson, senior director of Android at Google, discusses the mobile operating system during the Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, U.S. May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Paresh Dave

The forthcoming "Android Q" update will include settings to help users prevent different apps from tracking their whereabouts as they carry their device during their travels.

Meanwhile, more people are becoming worried about becoming too addicted to their phones. Toward that end, Android Q will add a "focus mode" that will allow people to turn off apps that lure them into doing unproductive things. There will also be more parental controls to limit the time that children spend on their devices.

Other than these, Android Q will have some revisions in user experience end of things. The back button will be skipped, instead swipe gestures from either edges of screen would trigger the back command.

Google Nest



The new Google Nest Hub Max
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The new Google Nest Hub Max (AFP)

Google unveiled a new smart speaker with a larger screen, better sound and video calling, part of a broader push to get its digital assistant into more homes.

The internet giant showed off the Nest Hub Max on Tuesday at its I/O developer conference in Mountain View, California. The new device has a 10-inch screen, up from the smaller version’s 7-inch display. The new model also adds a high-resolution front-facing camera that can be used for video calls and as a Nest security camera.

Google is naming the device under its Nest brand several months after the company folded the smart-home unit into the company’s larger hardware division. The smaller model of Google’s smart speaker with a display, is being renamed the Google Nest Hub. The Google Nest Hub will be coming to India soon.

With inputs from AP and Reuters.

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