The 4 Most Surprising Takeaways From Google’s I/O Conference

Google opened its I/O Developer Conference with a purse of a keynote. Over two hours Wednesday, a cast of characters from the Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant covered everything from AI-assisted ukulele lessons to the company’s carbon-free ambitions for its data centers.

There wasn’t always much new to the event, but four I/O items stood out as a surprise.

Increase in AR searches

Google’s upcoming upgrades to its search features will include “scene exploration,” which essentially mixes Google Lens’ image recognition features with Google’s previous work in augmented reality information overlays.

For example, you can hold your phone’s camera up to a shelf full of gourmet chocolate to see information about each product superimposed on the camera view. Or you can point the camera at a pharmacy’s moisturizer shelf to find fragrance-free options.

This type of free-form information overlay represents a much more ambitious implementation of AR than, say, the Yelp app displaying star ratings for nearby restaurants in a device’s street view. picture from your phone.

“It’s like having a supercharged Ctrl F for the world around you,” Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president of Google Search, said during the keynote.

It could also crowd Google into the lead over competing search engines that may offer better privacy, but come from companies that can’t match the machine learning prowess that powers this feature.

An assistant who yearns for your gaze

If having to say “Hey, Google” to get Google Assistant’s attention ranks among the pain points of your digital life, prepare to rejoice: an option coming to the Nest Hub Max smart display will give you avoid having to say those wake-up words.

This “Look and Talk” feature will instead allow this tabletop device to start listening once you look at it. The Nest Hub Max will decide that your gaze is more than just a glance by applying machine learning models to what it sees and hears with its camera and microphone, and it will do so without the using Google’s servers.

“The video of these interactions is processed entirely on device, so it’s not shared with Google or anyone else,” Sissie Hsiao, vice president of Google Assistant, said in the keynote.

“We minimize your data footprint,” said Jen Fitzpatrick, senior vice president, describing Google’s “Protected Computing” philosophy. “If the data doesn’t exist, it can’t be hacked. »

But while her overview of Google’s data minimization efforts — “collect less and delete more,” as she put it — could have fit into an Apple keynote, the I/O presentation was light on how which Google applies techniques such as differential privacy to reduce the personal details exposed by its main search and map services.

The keynote, however, highlighted a recent move by Google to give people veto power over search results that reveal their contact information. The ability to ask Google to stop showing these results through a self-service web form could blow a hole in the business model of people search sites.

Anyone torn between buying a Pixel 6 now or a Pixel 6a in a few weeks, for example, should now consider the announced fall arrival of a series of Pixel 7 phones, along with the Pro model. featuring a triple camera system on the back. Price? Ask later.

Smartwatch buyers planning to launch Google’s revived Wear OS, meanwhile, now know that Google will introduce a Pixel Watch this fall, also at an unexpected price.

And while not many people have bought tablets running Android, Google seems to have decided that years after discontinuing the Nexus 9, it’s no longer content to leave that market to the likes of Samsung. Next, it will introduce a Pixel tablet at an unexpected price in an unannounced size.

The keynote ended with a concept clip showing how Google’s work in real-time machine translation and augmented reality interfaces would allow people to transcend language barriers by wearing a future set of AR glasses. Yes, it looks like the Google Glass dream is alive and does it still look great in a demo video.

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