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Google unveils AI-centered computing

VISION:With computing shifting from mobile-first to AI-first, Google is focusing on products that allow a more natural way of interacting with technology, its CEO said


An attendee on Wednesday takes a photograph outside a “sandbox” product experience area at Google’s annual developers’ conference in Mountain View, California.

Photo: Bloomberg

Google on Wednesday announced that it was bringing its digital assistant to Apple Inc’s iPhones as part of its effort to win the battle with tech rivals on artificial intelligence.

At its annual developers conference at an outdoor concert-venue near its main campus in Mountain View, California, Google unveiled its vision for computing centered around artificial intelligence (AI).

“We are now witnessing a new shift in computing: the move from a mobile-first to an AI-first world,” Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai said during an opening presentation.

“It is forcing us to reimagine our products for a world that allows a more natural, seamless way of interacting with technology,” he said.

For Google, those interactions include using artificial intelligence to let people engage computers conversationally, have software anticipate needs and let smartphone cameras “recognize” what they see.

Google Assistant, the center of its AI efforts, is in a fierce battle with rivals such as Inc’s Alexa, Microsoft Corp’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri to be the top choice for use in smartphones, as well as connected homes, cars and a range of other devices.

“Siri’s got company, and all these other guys are pretty serious about it,” Gartner Inc analyst Brian Blau said.

Artificial intelligence is being woven into Google’s free Gmail service, used by more than 1 billion people, for features such as suggesting responses to messages.

For example, opening an e-mail containing an invitation to dinner might trigger a prompt to reply “I’m in.”

Google machine vision capabilities are being used to enable services such as recognizing who is in pictures and what they are doing, as well as translate languages in signs viewed through smartphone cameras, demonstrations showed.

Advanced “Lens” features are being added first to the Google Photo application, which is available free.

Aiming a smartphone camera at a flower will prompt it to be identified, while aiming it at a complex password and hotspot name on a router will let it automatically log into the wireless connection.

Google also unveiled a second-generation computer chip it designed specifically to improve cloud

Introduced last year, Google Assistant, is now on more than 100 million devices, said Scott Huffman, the team’s vice president of engineering.

“We are really starting to crack the hard computer challenge of conversationality,” Huffman said.

“Soon, with Google Lens, your assistant will be able to have a conversation about what you see,” he said.

Google used the conference to announce a software kit that will let developers build Assistant capabilities into robots, applications and other computerized creations.

Developers cheered when talk turned to Google-backed mobile operating system Android.

Google announced that more than 2 billion devices powered by Android software are used monthly in a freshly passed milestone.

The coming version of Android, referred to simply as “O” for the time being, will also have boosted artificial-intelligence features along with enhanced security, executives showed.

Google is also crafting a lighter version of Android, referred to as “Go,” designed for maximum performance on low-cost, entry-level smartphones in developing countries where Internet bandwidth is lean or expensive.

Google said that while it is happy with the momentum of its Daydream virtual-reality platform based on using smartphone as screens in headsets, it is working with partners on stand-alone virtual reality gear.

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