Google I/O Conference 2019

Background:

Google’s annual developer conference – Google I/O – was held in Mountain View last week. With a slew of new devices and services, here are the key updates.

Details and Implications:  

Google Ad-Tracking: Google announced they are updating how Chrome Cookies are handled moving forward and restricting the use of fingerprinting. This is with the aim to give the user more control over their data and privacy allowing them to block third party tracking if they wish. There was not much further detail given at the conference, but these changes may see impacts for digital advertisers with regards to cookie-based conversion measurement and limit the ability to personalise ads via fingerprinting methods if a user has opted out. These inevitable limitations on valuable customer insights may see a long-term knock-on effect resulting in less valuable impressions and less revenue for publishers as a result. Google suggested the rules would be the same for Google cookies and IDs as third parties.

Google Next Gen Assistant: Google Assistant is  now even faster after Google announced it had shrunk its voice recognition models down from hundreds of gigabytes to half a gigabyte. Now that its recognition models are stored locally on the phone, Assistant will also work on Airplane Mode with very minimal delays between commands and their associated resulting actions. Google’s Next Gen Assistant will be available on new Pixel phones later this year.

Google Nest: Google announced a rebrand of its Google Home line, which will now fall under the Google Nest umbrella. In addition, the company also announced the launch of its Nest Hub Max, which will retail for $229 later this summer. The new Nest Hub Max device offers a security camera, smart display and speakers and combines the Nest Camera, Google Home Hub and Google Home Max in a single device. Unlike the original Google Home Hub, the Nest Hub Max’s built-in camera allows for facial recognition and is able to bring up personalised results unique to each family member. Google stated that processing of the data happens locally and not over the internet.

Google Lens: Google Lens had a few new updates since the last I/O conference – with most of them focusing on eating out with friends and focused on usability. Updates include the ability to contextualise information on a piece of paper, like a menu; search for dishes from a menu and pull up photos of that dish based on Google search information; pull up a camera after pointing it at a receipt to help you add a tip, split a bill and even translate foreign languages or to hear a live text-to-speech translation.

Project Euphoria: In an effort to make communication more accessible, Project Euphoria, powered by Google AI and a variety of non-profit organisations, has built a software that turns recorded voice samples into a spectrogram (a visual representation of the recorded sample). This will open up the world of voice controlled assistants to those who have a variety of speech related issues. Google’s AI algorithm currently collects voice data and helps accommodate users who speak English and have impairments associated with ALS but by training the system using its AI to further recognise uncommon types of speech, Google is hoping that the algorithm can be applied to larger groups of people with different speech impairments. Google is asking people around the world to submit their voice samples in an effort to help collect more diverse voice samples.

Google Duplex: Last year, Google launched Duplex, an AI customer service offering for small businesses (like restaurants, salons, etc) to help them field more phone calls, schedule reservations and more through an AI assistant. Though many were concerned about a bot answering the phone with a human-like voice, this year Google announced that Duplex is coming to the web. Instead of talking, Duplex will pull up websites for your reservations, pre-fill booking forms found from your calendar and your preferences based on previous bookings found in your Gmail, furthering the Google Assistant umbrella offering.

Summary:

It was all about AI. Assistants are set to rule, the question for consumers will be what is the right balance between privacy and data security concerns on one side and the utility and benefit to our lives that is provided on the other. Apple is already heading for the privacy hills. Facebook is doing the same. So it is no surprise Google’s developments are contextualized along the same lines. The battle also continues to try and ensure that the consumer spends the majority of their time inside one platform’s ecosystems – whether in the home, on the move, in the car or anywhere else.

Further Reading:
Google | CNET | Verge | Tech Crunch | CNBC