Google just wrapped up the first day of its I/O event, leaving us with tons of new products, software, and experimental AI to learn about. Here’s everything you need to know about the Android 12 beta, Samsung’s new commitment to Wear OS, an AI tool that identifies skin conditions, and more.
Keep in mind that there are still two more days left of Google’s I/O event, which runs through May 20th. The company will continue announcing products, ideas, and technological advances for the duration of the I/O event, though as always, most of the big announcements come on day one.
Android 12 Beta Arrives With a Whole New Look
As expected, Google used its I/O event to launch the first beta for the Android 12 OS. And it’s the biggest Android update we’ve seen in years. Not only did Google redesign Android with a new, customizable “Material You” design language, but it’s added stronger privacy controls, plus a new all-in-one panel for app permissions.
One of the most interesting changes in Android 12 is the reimagined notifications and Quick Settings pull-down window. It now provides a full view of all notifications, app controls, smart home controls, and Google Pay options.
You can try the Android 12 beta now on Google Pixel and other eligible devices. Just keep in mind that some features may not work perfectly, and some of your phones’ hardware (like the fingerprint sensor) may not be supported in the beta.
Samsung and Google Combine Their Smartwatch “Talents”
Google really dropped the ball with Wear OS. But now, Google and Samsung are teaming up, essentially combining their Wear OS and Tiezen software. For now, the combined software is just called Wear OS, but it features several new features and apps to better track your health and integrate with your smartphone.
Due to Google’s recent acquisition of Fitbit, the company suddenly has access to smart watch developers who really know what they’re doing. It seems that Google is using those developers, plus a little help from Samsung, to take a genuine shot at the Apple Watch.
Google Photos Builds Memories (And Memory-Hiding Tools)
A new Google Photos update expands the Memories tool, providing slideshows for more than just you and your pets. Future slideshows will center around objects, colors, and events, and an example provided by Google, the Memories algorithm created a funny “adventures of the orange backpack” slideshow. Memories will also begin building slideshows of cultural events and holidays later this year.
But not all Memories are worth remembering. That’s why Google is making it easier for users to hide Memories featuring select dates, people, or pets. Photos users can also delete Memories or remove select images from Memories slideshows.
Better Shopping Tools In Chrome
A massive Google Shopping update adds a ton of new tools to help you find what you need online. The update features a new Shopping Graph to help you compare prices and find reviews, based on data from 24 billion listings across the web. Google is also boosting its Lens capabilities, allowing you to point your camera at any product and instantly find it online.
If you use Chrome, your browser will automatically keep track of open shopping carts, allowing you to come back and buy items at any time. Google also announced that it wants to integrate stores’ loyalty programs and discounts into the Shopping tab.
Google Maps Hits the Pavement With New Safety Features
Now that Google Maps is the king of the streets, Google is expanding its capabilities to better represent sidewalks, bike lanes, and crosswalks. The company is also updating Maps to account for safety information, like traffic and weather.
Interestingly, and I wish we had this feature last year, Google Maps is adding information on foot traffic in stores and streets. The tool can better help you avoid crowded areas, whether for health reasons or personal preference.
Google Search Gives “Expert” Answers With MUM
There’s nothing worse than going down a Google Search rabbit hole. That’s why Google is working on a MUM algorithm that provides long, detailed answers to search questions. If you look up information on hiking, for example, Google Search may generate a nice article explaining all the tools and safety information you need to have a good time.
Google says that it based MUM on real-world experts who give detailed explanations to simple questions. The algorithm will (one day) save you time as your research vacations or hobbies and provide important information that you never thought to look up.
Smart Canvas Brings Video Chat to Word Docs
Hate jumping between video chats and word documents? Google is integrating its productivity suite with its Meet video service through a tool called Smart Canvas. The idea is simple—bring social media features, polls, video chat windows, and more to Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
Along with Smart Canvas, Google is updating Meet to make collaborations and presentations easier. People in charge of meetings can rearrange coworkers’ video feeds, providing a cleaner, more controlled view of presentations, documents, and the people you work with.
Chrome Automatically Replaces Compromised Passwords
You really shouldn’t reuse passwords. But things happen, and sometimes accounts get compromised. If you’re using Chrome to manage your passwords, then your browser can now automatically generate and change passwords for websites, saving you the trouble of digging through a site’s confusing UI.
One-tap password changes are now available in Chrome. You can find the feature by performing a password checkup or visiting passwords.google.com.
LaMDA Lets Google Assistant Have Real Conversations
In what can only be described as the most bizarre moment in (recent) I/O history, Google demonstrated a conversational AI that roleplays as Pluto, a paper airplane, or whatever object you want.
Called LaMDA, the conversational AI will eventually bring casual, free-flowing discussion capabilities to Google Assistant and other voice assistants. It won’t pretend to be a paper airplane all the time, but it may find a lot of use in education, as children can ask to have a conversation with a lion or horse to learn about the animals’ environments, biology, and habits.
Project Starline Bring Video Chat to a New Level
Video chats just aren’t enough. That’s why Google is working on Project Starline, a magic mirror that brings distant families to you in 3D. Spatial audio and careful video positioning let you feel like you’re making eye contact through Project Starline, an impressive feat that’s impossible with standard video chat services.
Project Starline may be the first AR application that can appeal to anyone anywhere. Google says its working to bring down the price of Starline hardware, though there’s no knowing when a product will launch or what form it’ll take.
Google Identifies Your Rash, Gives You a TB Test
A new Google dermatology assist tool helps people identify common skin conditions with their phone. While it isn’t a replacement for a real doctor visit, the tool could help people learn about common skin, hair, and nail problems, or even find treatment for rashes.
Along with its dermatology tool, Google shared research on its AI-powered tuberculosis identification tool. The software can accurately identify TB in X-rays of patients’ lungs, providing a cheap alternative to human-led assessments. Because TB disproportionately affects people in poorer countries, this tool could convince people who are ill to get a cheap preliminary test before leaping into expensive, traditional tests.