May 19, 2021
Use Google services? These five updates will make your lives easier
Get ready for a lot of new changes to most of your Google experiences.
On Tuesday, Google hosted its annual keynote kicking off the I/O developers conference. The tech giant uses the keynote to highlight new features launching on Google services including Photos, Maps, Shopping and others.
"The last year has put a lot into perspective," wrote Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and parent company Alphabet, in a blog post Tuesday. "At Google, it's also given renewed purpose to our mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
While the keynote provided glimpses and far-out technologies arriving soon, we also saw features that could deliver a more immediate impact to Google users' daily lives. Here's a breakdown:
Get a better view of busy locations
Want to take a trip somewhere, but not sure if the location you're visiting might get crowded (something likely to happen as we emerge like cicadas from post-COVID isolation)? Google Maps will soon show you areas that appear busier than usual, represented by moving dotted lines surrounding an area. Ideal for if you want to avoid crowds.
Google AI as dermatologist
If you've ever encountered a weird rash, or a new mole pops up on your body, you might soon receive an assist from Google on a diagnosis. The company is working on an AI-powered dermatology tool they hope to launch as a pilot this year capable of recognizing nail, skin and hair issues.
To use the tool, you take a picture of the issue in question, then answer questions about your skin type, how long you've had the problem and add related symptoms. Google's AI model will then provide a list of possible matching conditions that you can then research further, or consult with a doctor.
"To make sure we're building for everyone, our model accounts for factors like age, sex, race and skin types—from pale skin that does not tan to brown skin that rarely burns," reads a post co-authored by Peggy Bui, M.D., a product manager for Google Health, and Yuan Liu, Ph.D., technical lead on the project.
Shopping by screenshot?
Let's say you see a cool product online and you grab a screenshot of it. Google Photos will allow users to search that screenshot with Lens and shop for any related items. During a demo of the tool, an image of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry was shown, with options to search for the pair of shoes he was wearing for shopping purposes.
Never mind your TV remote
Your Android phone will soon be able to work as a TV remote if you are an owner of one of the more than 80 million Android TV OS devices including Google TV. "If your home is like mine, your remote is missing 50% of the time," said Sameer Samat, vice president of product management for Android & Google Play. "To keep movie night on track, we are building TV remote features directly into your phone.
When the feature rolls out later this year, you will be able to use voice search or type with phone keyboard, making it easier to enter passwords.
Watch out for better smartwatch features
It may be easier to choose your next Android smartwatch, as Google and Samsung plan to combine their Wear OS and Tizen operating systems into a unified platform, the companies announced. The collaboration should provide improved performance and longer battery life, they say.
"We are bringing the best of these Galaxy Watch capabilities together with Google on a single platform unifying the ecosystem for customers and developers," said Patrick Chomet, head of Samsung Mobile's customer experience office.
The next Samsung Galaxy Watch will include the ability to use the Play store, Google Maps and other apps, he said.
The Google-Samsung collaboration yields other benefits, Sameer said. "We can do things like run the heart rate sensor continuously letting you better track your activity during the day and your sleep overnight, while giving you plenty of battery to spare for the next day.
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