Google made some exciting announcements at its annual I/O Developer Conference at Shoreline Amphitheater in Silicon Valley on May 9 and 10, 2018, but comments regarding the issues of user privacy and data collection were strangely absent.
Perhaps the most talked-about announcement from Google is a new artificial intelligence voice technology called ‘Duplex’ that works with Google’s virtual Assistant. Duplex sounds almost realistic enough to pass as human, including verbal ticks and speech inflections, such as saying ‘uh’ or ‘um’ or ‘mm hmm’ when speaking.
Duplex is able to make reservations or book appointments through phone calls and is a bit creepy how realistic it can sound during a conversation. It’s a big leap forward from the semi-mechanical voice used on the Google Home smart speaker.
The new human-like speaking ability takes Google Assistant another step closer towards passing the Turing test, a test proposed by Alan Turing, an English computer scientist in 1950 where a computer’s natural language responses would need to sound like a human’s in order to pass.
Google verified on Thursday, 10 May that the Duplex AI will also be able to appropriately identify itself when talking to people. However, details about the disclosure have not yet been shared, as Google simply says it is designing Duplex with disclosure built in but the consequences of this technology falling into the wrong hands are tremendous. Imagine scammers, political robot calls, con artists using this technology for less than honorable intentions. Has anyone thought about it? The release for Duplex is scheduled for this upcoming summer.
Users willingly tell Facebook what they want the world to know about them, but Google knows the real you.
When you think about it, Google knows your hobbies and interests, thanks to your search history. Google knows what entertains you, thanks to YouTube and knows who you email, courtesy of Gmail. It knows what routes you travel, thanks to Google Maps and it knows which restaurants you like to eat at, thanks to the online reviews you left.
Vice President of Engineering, David Burke touched on the topic of privacy and mentioned that he is very conscious of privacy concerns. He also spoke about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the European rule designed to allow people to take more control over their personal data as of May 25.
Google’s voice Assistant has been updated to be even smarter. Google Routines is designed to handle custom commands, so users can launch simultaneous actions, such as playing music, providing traffic updates, and turning the lights on or off.
Google Assistant can also be a helpful tool for parents wanting to teach kids some manners. Users can enable the ‘pretty please’ feature and Google Assistant will listen for keywords such as ‘please’ or ‘thank you’. If those words aren’t heard, Google Assistant won’t respond.
Google Assistant has also been updated with new voices. There are now a total of 8 voices to choose from, so each family member is able to select their preferred voice, even on shared devices.
Also announced at the I/O Developer Conference was the Android P update. The Android P is perhaps Google’s most ambitious update in a long time.
The OS update features some cool new swiping controls for improved app navigation. Android P will include smarter app search results, offering suggestions for things you can do within apps, rather than just showing icons of installed apps.
For example, you might search for Ed Sheeran and you could get a button in the search results to play a song directly on Spotify.
Google will also begin transitioning to a gesture-based control scheme, which could be a more flexible way to control the operating system. Essentially, Google is changing the way Android is navigated and how users interact with their phones.
One of the more interesting features of the Android P is called App Actions, which is built into the OS. App Actions are able to predict certain actions users may want to take when accessing various apps, based on a range of different contextual signals.
App Time Limits allows users to see exactly how much time they spend in each app. Users are able to set time limits for using each app to a specified amount of time every day.
When the time limit is reached, you’re notified by a pop-up message that can’t be ignored. Then the app icon simply turns gray and is inaccessible again until the next day (unless, of course, the user goes into settings and removes the self-imposed time limit). App Time Limits is intended to reduce the overall amount of time peoples pend staring at their phones.
Screenshot editing is also a part of the Android P update, which allows users to edit screenshots after taking them.
Google is working on its own line of next generation smartwatches in conjunction with Qualcomm. The Wear OS also features an on-board smarter Assistant, which is able to turn on your lights, speak responses and provide smart follow-ups.
The watch is able to speak back to you, a bit like Siri, so you don’t need to read everything on the screen. Google has also implemented some battery-saving functions in the hopes of providing better battery life.