AI For Everyone: Google I/O 2018 Highlights AI-Driven Innovation


Google I/O 2018 developers conference Sundar Pichai 8 May 2018

Google announced a slew of AI-driven innovations on Day 1 of the 2018 Google I/O Developers Conference on Tuesday, which kicked off with a three-hour keynote address led by CEO Sundar Pichai and other executives. Their goal—to get the public and its audience of Android mobile developers pumped about new tools, advances and capabilities to spark their imaginations and help Google keep innovating.

As it pushes the boundaries of artificial intelligence, the voice-activated Google Assistant is becoming more conversational and visual, with the ability for its personal AIde to carry out conversations in ways that would no doubt astound Alan Turing.

It’s also more ubiquitous, as noted in a blog post: “As of today, the Google Assistant is available on more than 500 million devices, it works with over 5,000 connected home devices, it’s available in cars from more than 40 brands, and it’s built right into the latest devices, from the Active Edge in the Pixel 2 to a dedicated Assistant key in the LG G7 ThinQ. Plus, it’ll be available in more than 30 languages and 80 countries by the end of the year.”

It’s also diversifying its voices, adding six distinctive voices including the dulcet tones of John Legend (whose wife, Chrissy Teigen, couldn’t resist teasing). The new “continued conversation” feature also means no need to repeat “OK Google” or “Hey Google” with each command, along with the ability to toggle between the Google Voice Assistant and another conversation, with Google able to tell the difference.

A “Pretty Please” option will reward manners in an increasingly verbal command-based ecosystem, so kids who make requests with a “please” or “thank you” will be acknowledged by the voice-driven platform. Custom routines (such as a morning-specific string of actions) are also coming on-board.

Google Maps is incorporating augmented reality to make it even easier to navigate, superimposing directional cues on a real-time street view. It’s also testing whether users would benefit from a guide, such as the animated fox shown in the I/O demo.

The updated Google Photos app is adding one-tap “suggested actions” which will suggest what to do with individual photos, such as correct the exposure or share in a particular way, all based on how it perceives the image. Like the suggestion? Carry it out with a single tap. Google Lens also boasts the ability to extract text from a photo.

The just-redesigned Gmail is adding a “smart compose” feature to finish your sentences. Sundar Pichai joked on-stage that he’s been sending out more memos than usual lately thanks to Gmail’s “smart compose.”

Acknowledging its impact as a news distributor and media partner, Google News has been redesigned to use AI capabilities to highlight trusted sources (take that, fake news), increase personalization and help drive subscriptions and monetization for publishers:

Some of the most emotional moments of the I/O 2018 kick-off keynote focused on accessibility and how Google is assisting people with disabilities. The new Lookout app helps people who are blind and visually impaired learn about their surroundings:

And we defy you to hear Tania Finlayson’s AI-enhanced life story with a dry eye:

An overarching theme was Digital Wellbeing and Google’s responsibility as a brand to promote balance and moderation when it comes to our digital lives.

Pichai highlighted the need to “switch off when you need to” and “find balance for your family,” so (for example) Google can now generate a digest of notifications, “take a break” reminders for YouTube binge-watchers or tally how much you are using your phone.

For those who missed the keynote, check out all the news on the Google I/O website or watch below: