At the Google I/O developer conference that took place in mid-May, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced to around 7,000 guests nothing less than a change of course towards artificial intelligence. But the company’s objectives remain virtually unchanged: to collect data and win over new customers.
The topic dominating the conference: intelligence, or more specifically, artificial intelligence (AI). With the help of AI, devices will understand their users in the future even better than before, making their lives much easier. One example here is Google Lens, a solution where neural networks access images and are able to immediately translate signs etc. into foreign languages or writing systems. It will even be possible to connect to a new Wi-Fi network by snapping a photo, meaning you no longer have to type in a monstrous password. And the list goes on: buy tickets by taking a picture of a poster advertising an event, find out what plant you’re looking at, or buy the shoes the woman sitting across from you in the subway is wearing – all with a single click.
But we’re not just talking pictures – with AI, you can even use your own voice to simplify your everyday life. The technology not only processes what is said, but even recognizes who said it. When the smart Google Home speaker is requested to “call mom”, different people are phoned up depending on who gave the command.
What’s sure is that these functions will make many aspects of life easier without having to spend as much time searching for information. It will be possible to control a smartphone even when you don’t have a free hand. The cost – let it be mentioned that the term “data privacy” was not mentioned once during the conference, in contrast to “data collection” – remains an open question, however.
Android 8 or “O” for “Oreo”?!
From C for Cupcake  to K for KitKat, Google has now reached update “O”. According to speculations, the next confectionary in line is the “Oreo”. What does the new update do, besides making you crave cookies? Android users will have to wait until summer for the actual rollout, though an official beta version is now available for testing, along with some information on what will make the new update more efficient, faster, and better. As with previous updates, this update will also improve the smartphone’s battery life – pretty unspectacular. However, this time Google has some extremely helpful new features lined up: Who isn’t familiar with the situation – you’re watching a music video or your favorite show in the YouTube app, which is suddenly interrupted just because you quickly want to check the weather or reply to a friend’s message in WhatsApp. This annoyance is now a thing of the past – Android 8 will feature a picture-in-picture mode, allowing you to keep watching your video in a smaller format while using your smartphone for more (or less) important things.
Another helpful new feature is the improved notification function for apps. On the one hand, in the future, users will be able to choose what apps are allowed to send notifications at all, and in which form. On the other hand, apps will automatically show if updates are available – options that Apple has been offering for some time now.
A function long available in Chrome will now find its way to Android smartphones: autocomplete for user names and passwords will also be possible for apps. Users will have to choose for themselves whether they’d prefer the added comfort to security.
Google would also like to tap into some new markets. With “Android Go,” a lighter Android version, the company aims to win over billions of customers with lower performance devices.
Google Home sounds the charge
In the area of hardware, Google announced it would like to work with hardware manufacturers to develop VR glasses that are capable of working without a smartphone thanks to an integrated processor. What’s more interesting, though, are the developments in the Google Home smart speakers. In addition to the passive functions already available, such as for smart home control and answering questions (extremely similar to Amazon’s Alexa), in the future, Google Home will also interact with users, for example reminding them of appointments or letting them know about traffic jams on their route to work.
New features and broader availability of Google Home are also absolutely necessary. Currently, Amazon has managed to keep a market share of 70.6 percent, while Google is significantly behind with just 23.8 percent. Especially in times when Microsoft is trying to enter the market with Invoke, Google has no choice but to take the bull by the horns. But Google is both the hunter and the hunted. A separate iOS app for Google Assistant presents Siri with some serious competition. Whether just one solution will come out on top or both can peacefully coexist, remains to be seen.
There is one thing that all of these examples make clear: voice control – be it using autonomous devices such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, or integrated into smartphones – is and will remain a crucial topic of focus. Managing to get ahead will mean a major competitive edge for providers. We will continue to carefully monitor the market. Earlier this week Apple gave a sneak peek of HomePod, a speaker, to rival Google’s Home and Amazon’s Echo. So it remains exciting to observe the developments that will unfold the next month.
 The first Android version was actually the third one, which is why “C” was chosen instead of the letter “A”.
Picture credit: Benny Marty / Shutterstock.com