Thu, May 10, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Google aims to simplify users’ lives by using AI


An attendee plays a game of rock-paper-scissors against a robot at the Google I/O developers’ conference in Mountain View, California, on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters

Google on Tuesday put the spotlight on its artificial intelligence (AI) smarts at its annual developers’ conference, announcing new consumer features aimed at simplifying users’ lives.

Many of the updates have a practical bent, designed to ease tasks such as composing e-mails, making lists, navigating city streets and lessening the digital distractions that have increasingly addled people’s lives as a result of previous tech industry innovations.

One of the biggest crowd-pleasers for the thousands of software developers who gathered at the outdoor conference was an augmented-reality feature on Google Maps that helps people get walking directions. Users would be able to follow arrows — or possibly a cartoon-like creature — that appear on a camera view showing the actual street in front of them.

Some new features for Android smartphones also aim to improve people’s digital well-being, including a new “shush” mode that automatically puts a smartphone in “do not disturb” mode if you flip it face down on a table.

A “wind down” mode would fade the screen to gray at a designated time to help you disconnect before bed.

The company’s digital concierge, known only as Google Assistant, is getting new voices — including one based on that of musician John Legend — later this year.

It would also encourage kids to be polite by thanking them when they say please, similar to a feature Inc is bringing to its Alexa voice assistant.

Google Assistant might also soon be talking with ordinary people at businesses for tasks such as restaurant reservations, although the feature is still in development.

“Hi, I’m calling to book a hair appointment for a client,” a realistic-sounding automated voice said in a demo from the conference stage.

The AI assistant used pauses and “ums” and “mmm-hmms” to sound more human in conversation with real people.

Google said it would roll out the technology, called Duplex, as an experiment in the next few weeks.

“We really want to work hard to get this right,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who kicked off the conference, known as Google I/O.

Other changes are more immediate.

Gmail is getting an auto-complete feature that uses machine learning to offer suggestions for finishing half-completed sentences.

For example: “I haven’t seen you” might be auto-completed to “I haven’t seen you in a while and I hope you’re doing well.” Users can accept the completion by hitting the tab key.

The search giant aims to make Google Assistant and other services so useful that people cannot live without them — or the search results that drive its advertising business.

However, it also wants to play up the social benefits of AI and how it is being used to improve healthcare, preserve the environment and make scientific discoveries.

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