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Google I/O 2018: The theme is still AI
Google kicked off its annual I/O developer conference today. Like I/O 2017, this year’s event is all about AI and machine learning, with Google CEO Sundar Pichai beginning the keynote with details about AI innovations from Google over the past year.
There was also a lot of news about the upcoming Android P, which wasn’t given an official name during the keynote, as well as AI-driven changes to Android apps.
Email in Gmail will now write itself
Not content with simply offering smart response suggestions in Gmail, Google has added what it calls Smart Compose, which will suggest entire sentences based on the recipient, sender, subject, and context clues it picks up from the rest of the email.
Google Assistant gets smarter too
Google has added six new voices for Assistant that are based on its Wavenet voice processing model, but that’s not all: Users can now have actual conversations with their assistant.
Continued Conversation will allow users to chain questions together without having to wake their Assistant up to ask repeated questions, making interacting with it much more natural.
Assistant can now also make calls to places like hair salons, mechanics, restaurants, or other places where you need to make appointments and talk to them on your behalf, then add the event to your calendar and send you a reminder when it’s done.
Assistant smart screens get a release date
If you’re waiting for one of the Google Assistant smart screens you now have an end in sight: they’ll be available starting in July.
Android P: Three themes
Android P was built with three themes in mind: intelligence, simplicity, and digital wellbeing. The changes covered in the I/O keynote all touched on one of those themes.
Android P intelligence: Adaptive battery
Android P will have an adaptive battery feature that uses on-device machine learning to anticipate user battery use and tweak the device accordingly.
For example, if Google knows you tend to use certain apps at a certain time of the day it will prevent other apps from eating up battery with background refreshes. Google said it has seen a 30% reduction in CPU app wakeups with adaptive battery enabled.
Android P intelligence: Adaptive brightness
Android P will learn about your brightness preferences and change how auto brightness works accordingly. If you like the screen 10% brighter than auto brightness would set it in direct sunlight then adaptive brightness will figure that out and make sure your choices stick automatically.
Android P intelligence: App Actions
Last year it was big news when Android gained app suggestions in the app drawer, which front-loaded apps Google believed you were most likely to use next.
The latest iteration of that is App Actions, which don’t just suggest an app you’re likely to use, but the particular thing you’re likely to do with that app.
If you tend to call your parents at a certain time of day you’ll see that suggestion when you look at your app list. The same goes for the time you’re normally at the gym and listening to a particular playlist.
Android P intelligence: Slices
Google has added a new API to Android that it calls Slices, which puts snippets of an app’s user interface right into search results.
App developers can now pop UI elements, like booking a table, buying a book, or calling an Uber, right into the search results. Slices are also interactable, so users can perform the action without ever having to open the full app.
Android P intelligence: ML Kit
A new machine learning kit called the ML Kit has been added to Android P to allow developers to leverage on-device machine learning technology in their apps. The image above shows what the ML Kit can add to apps.
Android P simplicity: A new home screen
Google said in the keynote that Android P has an emphasis on simplicity, and nowhere does that show more than the basic Google UI. Any device that allows the stock Android interface will have access to this new look in Android P.
The following UI and navigation changes assume the use of the stock Android UI from Google.
Android P simplicity: New ways to navigate
Android P is all about swipe navigation.
Swipe up from the homescreen to see recent apps; swipe again to get to the all apps view. The swipe up gesture works anywhere on the screen as well as from within apps.
Android P simplicity: A swipeable home button
Swiping left and right on the home button will also bring up recent apps and will allow users to scroll through them to get an overview.
As an added bonus, smart text selection can be done from the overview screen without needing to fullscreen an app–a huge mobile multitasking leap.
Android P simplicity: Volume controls
Touching the volume key on the side of the device triggers an onscreen display, but now it floats right next to the physical buttons themselves.
Media volume is also now the default for the volume buttons, and ringer volume has been relegated to an on/off toggle.
Android P simplicity: Screen rotation
Lots of users, Google said, turn on the rotation lock to prevent accidental screen rotation. They then find that they have to toggle that option off again to watch videos, so Google added a one-touch toggle to manually rotate the screen. It appears in the navigation bar when the device is rotated.
Android P digital wellbeing: Habits dashboard
Google spoke a lot in its keynote about digital wellbeing, which it seemed to define as developing a healthy relationship with tech. That said, there are a number of wellbeing-based changes to Android, starting with the habits dashboard.
The dashboard shows info on screen time, number of unlocks, time spent in certain apps and doing certain things, and all of the info can be drilled down into for more specifics.
You can also set app timers in the dashboard that will alert you once you’ve spent too much time in a particular app for the day. That app icon will be grayed out on the screen once you’ve passed your limit, hopefully reinforcing that you shouldn’t be using it.
Android is also adding a feature called Wind Down. When you tell Google Assistant to start Wind Down at a particular time it will cause the entire display to go black and white until the morning, forcing you to either adapt to a black-and-white smartphone display or read a book instead.
Android P digital wellbeing: Do not disturb improvements
Google is improving do not disturb (DND) in Android P with two big changes.
First, DND will now not only mute alerts, but also hide visual alerts as well, which is great for when you’re using your device but don’t want to be interrupted by a notification bubble.
Second, it’s now easier than ever to toggle DND on an Android P device: Just turn the device screen-side down and it activates automatically.
Android P beta: Available today
Users with an Android device from one of the manufacturers shown in the above image are eligible for the Android P public beta, which launched today. You can find out how to enroll at this link.
Google Maps goes social
Google Maps is getting a number of AI-powered changes in the latest version of Android, most notably the For You tab.
For You is sort of like a news feed for stuff happening near you, like restaurant openings, trending locations, and recommendations.
Google Maps: Your Match Score
Maps is also adding restaurant scores based on machine learning algorithms that analyze a user’s individual tastes, previous ratings, and restaurants they’ve visited.
Google Maps shortlists
Speaking of social features of Google Maps, new shortlists are shareable lists of possible locations users compile in Maps and share with friends. Invitees can vote yea or nay to restaurant or venue choices and even add their own recommendations.
Maps now features AR-powered walking navigation that shows street names, turns, and other important details right on the screen when the camera is pointed ahead. It will also add bubbles for nearby restaurants and attractions while you’re walking.
Google Lens integrates with camera apps
Phones from the above manufacturers are getting Google Lens integration in their camera apps. All of the current features of Google Lens, and the upcoming ones in the following slides, will be available right in the camera without the need to launch another app.
Google Lens smart text recognition
Using Lens to view a document will allow users to select the text and copy it to the clipboard without ever needing to actually scan the document itself.
Google Lens style match
Lens will now be able to pick out visual qualities of objects and suggest similarly styled objects (clothes, furniture, etc.) available for purchase online.