Google I/O Recap
One of my favorite times of year wrapped up last month – that’s right, Google I/O! As a precursor to this article, I have to admit that I am a Google advocate, so this recap is definitely biased towards a positive review.
Google continues to bring to the table a focus on the user, and the updates this year reflect the changing attitude towards technology as well as a need to simplify our lives.
The ability to control your privacy, customize your google interactions with their platform and your personal network, and improve the “smart” aspect of daily life were the core themes of this year’s I/O.
As more of our information lives on the internet or in the cloud, privacy is more important than ever. One of Google’s first initiatives is the all-new Privacy Dashboard. This new, easy-to-use, interface will allow consumers to easily change their privacy settings on their phone. It also gives detailed information about which apps have access to your microphone, camera, and location, including when the apps last used this data. For apps that require your location data to work, Google now offers you the option to provide your approximate location versus your exact location. Secondly, Google introduced Private Computer Core which is their way of keeping your information secure when your data is being used for Google’s new AI-driven and machine learning technology. Other simple additions to layer on more privacy include: the ability to lock photo folders, quick search history delete, and maps reminders about location-data sharing.
As technology continues to advance and become smarter, the consumer is looking for more ways that technology can help them in their day-to-day. On top of that, consumers want to feel unique and catered to. Google leaned into this concept by introducing the new Android 12 Beta update. In this update, the device will automatically customize your theme colors to your phone’s wallpaper, giving your phone a more personal flare (also called project Material You). Material You will go beyond just customizing your phone, it will now also be brought to all Fitbit devices as well.
Google Assistant is also getting a personalization refresh. The user interface (UI) will now be able to provide shortcut suggestions based on your usage patterns. This goes beyond consumer-use; developers will also be able to program app-specific shortcuts that can be recommended by Google Assistant to the consumer. One of the big advancements eventually coming to Google Assistant is LaMDA. This project provides a new way we might be able to look at AI assistance in the future. LaMDA is being trained in conversational technology, which would allow consumers to have a more free-flowing conversation with technology, like Google Assistant, in the future.
Rethinking Technology to be Inclusive, Eco-Friendly
Society was forced to adapt in more than one way in this last year. Core movements, like Black Lives Matter, made us consider the inequalities that are built into our industry. As a result, Google took the opportunity to look inward to their technologies and how they could be adapted to reflect this change. Project Starline is one initiative that seeks to create more personable connections with loved ones when we are unable to be together. Utilizing 3D imaging, Project Starline makes video conferencing feel closer to meeting in person. They are implementing other changes, too, like creating a more inclusive camera. By improving the white balancing of each photo, this will allow for better color balanced photos, specifically for those with darker skin tones. It also is improving the selfie settings, making sure it can detect those with curly or more natural hairstyles versus blurring it out like it has in the past.
Google also considered how society is viewing environmental changes. Google Maps will now offer eco-friendly routes and safer routes thanks to new AI technology that can better understand traffic patterns and take more factors into consideration as it develops the route.
Google’s releases this year were very on point for the world we are living in. I am most excited for the continued improvements in LaMDA and Starline. The world isn’t far from talking to your brother across the country in a hologram and then having Google help plan for your BBQ by ordering supplies and coordinating travel for your brother to come visit.