Google I/O: Android 12, Remote Working Tools, Wear Update

At this week’s Google I/O developer conference, the company unveiled its Android 12 mobile operating system with numerous visual changes and new privacy features. The company also showcased Project Starline, a prototype virtual meeting booth that could replace Google Meet. In addition, Google is tweaking its smartwatch Wear OS and has improved Photos’ discovery and Chrome’s built-in password manager. More remote working tools and new natural language skills were debuted. Google also tweaked Maps and shopping tools.

Wired reports that Android 12’s many visual changes are due to a new design language, Material You, that allows users to change the color palette of all apps to those provided in Google’s Material palette. The interface also has an “overall redesign with new widgets, a fresh look for larger and bolder quick settings tiles, and a simpler settings menu.”

The OS is “smoother and animations are more responsive.” The beta version is available now, “and the official release will likely roll out in August or September.” Android 12 offers a “new privacy dashboard that allows users to view app permission settings, see which data is being accessed by which apps, and revoke app tracking privileges all from one screen.”

Project Starline, currently a proof of concept, is “a virtual meeting booth with holograms,” allowing two users in remote locations to experience sitting across the table from each other, “thanks to depth sensors, multiple cameras, and spatial audio.” Updates to Wear OS “will include some features pulled right from Samsung’s current wearable OS, Tizen.”

In addition to “better battery life and up to 30 percent faster performance … some Google apps will work directly on the Wear platform without requiring a constant phone connection.”

Google Photos now offers “a feature that automatically collects photos into albums using visual patterns in the images to identify photos that probably belong together.” Users can control which photos end up in the collections. And it offers a feature that turns two static images into one animated image. Google is also “enhancing Chrome’s built-in password manager to aid users in keeping better track of their various account credentials across desktop and mobile.”

For remote working, Google now offers Smart Canvas, “a project management tool that lets multiple users work together across different document types.” Google Meet will also “soon be integrated directly into Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides” and Companion Mode in Meet displays.

Google showcased LaMDA, “that can hold a conversation with you, either typed or spoken, about any topic you’re curious about” by looking up information on the topic and then “weaving facts and contextual info into its answers.” Multitask Unified Model (MUM) is another natural language processing model “intended to make sense of longer, multi-pronged questions submitted by users.”

The company is “tweaking bits of its Maps app in an effort to offer users more real-time information” including options for “eco-friendly routes” and “safer routing.” With regard to e-commerce, “users can use Google Lens to search images in screenshots taken on their phone and link third-party memberships directly to their Google account.” The company also revealed a Shopify integration feature.

Android 12 Beta: Designed for You, Google Blog, 5/18/21
Android 12 Preview: First Look at Google’s Radical New Design, The Verge, 5/18/21
Transforming Collaboration in Google Workspace, Google Blog, 5/18/21
Google’s Plan to Make Search More Sentient, Vox, 5/18/21
LaMDA: Our Breakthrough Conversation Technology, Google Blog, 5/18/21
Google Details New AI Accelerator Chips, VentureBeat, 5/18/21
Google’s Project Starline Videoconference Tech Wants to Turn You into a Hologram, Wired, 5/18/21
Project Starline: Feel Like You’re There, Together, Google Blog, 5/18/21

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