Saturday, May 28, 2016

Google conference reveals new features such as Google Assistant - May 27, 2016

Google Now is so yesterday, since there is now Google Assistant.

Last week Google held its Developer Conference, Google IO, in Mountain View, California. While no new products were released to coincide with the conference, Google showed a number of products that will be coming out this summer and others later on.

There were a few items that hopefully will make family life a bit easier.

Full two hour version of Keynote

Twelve Minute edited version of keynote

Google Now, Google’s interface for talking to your Android or iPhone, is now called Google Assistant. You can now carry on a conversation with Assistant more than in the past.

In the keynote speech, Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai asked, “What’s showing nearby” and was shown a list of movies. He said: “We want to take the kids” and the list was amended to show only family-friendly films.

The Assistant asked, “Would you like tickets to any of these?” and he answered, “Jungle Book.” The app bought tickets online and had them waiting at the theater.

You can ask Assistant, “Who is Brad Pitt?” and it answers verbally and shows pertinent web pages, like his entry in Wikipedia and If asked, “How old is he?” it knows I meant Brad Pitt. I didn’t have to repeat the name. Google understood I meant the person I’d last asked about and answered correctly.

Google Assistant learns about you as you use it. Plus, if you use other Google services like Gmail, Calendar and the like, it knows what is in them. And, if you have location tracking turned on, it knows the routes you take to work. While that might bother some people, you get benefits from Google knowing so much about you.

Google also announced a new hardware product, Google Home, its version of Amazon’s Echo. Both products are small devices that sit in your home and listen for you to call to them.

Home can answer any question Google Assistant can answer. It also has a built-in speaker so it can play music from many music services, or you can send it music stored on your phone.

It can also send videos to your television using the Google Cast device.

Google Home

I do not know its ship date or cost yet. Amazon’s Echo is $179, so I’m certain Home will be competitive.

Google also upped its game in Virtual Reality. At its conference two years ago, Google gave out Google Cardboard, a device with lenses, a switch and Velcro, literally made of cardboard. It held your phone and coupled with an app, gave you a wonderful introduction to VR. Links to buy your own are on this week’s link post at

At the conference, Google announced its upcoming Android N operating system will have VR features so manufacturers can build VR devices and not have to create their own software. And Google showed a reference design for a VR headset and controller called Daydream.

Manufacturers are free to build devices using that design, and Google may itself build and sell a Daydream device. In the near future Android phones will also have VR enhancements built in.

Google showed Allo, an innovative chat app. It does all the things we expect: chat, emojis, stickers, photos, etc. It lets you whisper or shout a line of your message by sliding a bar to enlarge or reduce the text. And, you can draw over a photo to accentuate it.

Google has tied its artificial intelligence abilities to Allo. If someone mentions in the chat going to a Chinese restaurant, Google will offer to show you nearby Chinese restaurants. Once you’ve agreed to meet at one, the app can make a reservation for you.

And there is Duo, a one-to-one video-phone messaging app. It switches seamlessly from wifi to cell data and has an innovative Knock feature. When you get a Duo call, you see the caller and what they are doing, although they don’t see you until you answer.

Both Allo and Duo do not require a Google account.

Allo and Duo have tough mountains to climb. WhatsApp and Facebook’s own Messenger have billions of users already. If your friends don’t use Allo or Duo, you won’t have anyone to chat or video call.

And a caveat, some announced products may never appear. Previous IO conferences have shown products that never saw the light of day.

Check out this week’s Link post at www.FamilyTechOnline for videos showing these apps, devices and services.

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