Expectations were high at the keynote address that kicked off the Google I/O developer conference. But before you close the tab and move on to reading about a topic that actually interests you, hear me out: This year, the tech giant from Mountain View presumably had a lot of genuinely interesting products that would take us to the future.
Okay, maybe not that far ahead.
But to a future where a device reminiscent of Vegeta’s scouter (to be clear, we’re referring to Project Aura, formerly Google Glass) is actually something people would want to wear.
A tomorrow where smartphones are more like Lego (Project Ara) and less like single slabs of plastic or metal.
And self-driving cars are safe enough for widespread use.
Google instead seized the limelight to introduce two new communication apps — and two more answers to the question “What comes after Hangouts and Messenger?” And Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp. And Snapchat, Viber, Line, WeChat, Skype, BlackBerry Messenger, and, well, you get the picture.
Say “allo” to Allo, Google’s new messaging app.
But whereas Hangouts and Messenger don’t add anything fresh to the conversation, Allo leverages on Google’s AI strategy (by way of an integrated virtual assistant) to make itself heard.
It understands how we use language and can respond to messages without you typing anything, which sounds unsettling and a bit like when the IT guy gains remote access to your computer.
It’s even smart enough to respond to photos. So if someone sends you a picture of, say, a bowl of pasta, you may see a suggestion like “Yummy!” or “Oh-em-gee,” if you’re an “Oh-em-gee” type of person. Allo also learns over time, so the suggestions should get better as you use the app.
Also part of the attraction is how it can make your conversations more expressive. You can enlarge or shrink the size of an emoji or text by dragging the Send button upward or downward, giving the effect of screaming or muttering into the digital void.
There’s also Incognito Mode for sending messages that disappear into the ether, just like Snapchats, or encrypted ones that not even the big G can breach.
Then there’s Duo, a video-calling app that’s also encrypted end-to-end and performs well on slow networks.
But its billboard feature is called Knock Knock, which lets you see callers and the context in which they’re calling before picking up.
Your boss looking annoyed or stressed? Answer immediately. A college mate who’s been pestering you about investing in one of his ideas? That can wait indefinitely.
Both Allo and Duo will be available for Android and iOS “this summer.” Which begs the question: Can you nudge your loved ones to use yet another messaging service? We’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?
[irp posts=”8314″ name=”5 Reasons why I love Google Home”]
Disney+ expanding to more than 50 places this year
Check out the list here
Emerging as one of the biggest streaming platforms today, Disney+ is expanding its operations to more countries and territories this year. Starting in the summer of this year, the platform will find its way to 42 more countries and 11 new territories.
Despite the popularity of its content, Disney+ doesn’t have the widest global market owing to its limited availability. Currently, the platform is available only in 64 countries. Obviously, the biggest markets — like the United States and the United Kingdom — already have it. That, however, leaves out smaller territories that have expressed interest in the platform. But the expansion hasn’t stopped.
As announced via The Hollywood Reporter, Disney+ is expanding to over 50 new places. However, despite the size of its expansion, Disney has not announced exact launch dates or pricing schemes for any of the below countries.
The full list of new countries, arranged alphabetically, include the following: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Morocco, North Macedonia, Oman, Palestine, Poland, Qatar, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Vatican City and Yemen.
Disney+ will also expand to these 11 territories: the Faroe Islands, French Polynesia, French Southern Territories, St. Pierre and Miquelon Overseas Collective, Åland Islands, Sint Maarten, Svalbard & Jan Mayen, British Indian Ocean Territory, Gibraltar, Pitcairn Islands and St. Helena.
Is your country part of the list?
SEE ALSO: Disney+ coming to the Philippines soon?
Viu to produce over 30 originals for 2022
Featuring Asian content
Asian video streaming service Viu is welcoming 2022 with more than 30 Viu Originals slated for production.
The Korean and Chinese content-specializing platform is building on its 2021 success, which saw high-rating local and pan-regional original productions.
Viu Original Studio will have over 30 new productions released in the calendar year, including return seasons of popular shows like Close Friend (Thailand) and Assalamualaikum My Future Husband (Indonesia).
New local originals like Thai musical WANNABE and the much-awaited Korean original Again My Life are also set to be released.
More titles cover a range of genres, like romantic drama Finding the Rainbow, romantic comedy My Coach, thriller Remember 15, and action series Real Fake.
The people behind Viu also promised Viu-ers to expect more original Chinese content lined up for the year.
Local stars on the rise
Viu’ 2022 grand plans will also give a stage for local actors of respective countries to showcase their skills.
For instance, WANNABE, a coming-of-age drama series and musical, will star Chanon (Nonkul) Santinatornkul. The multi-award-winning actor who will be making his vocal debut as a young rapper in the series.
The star-studded cast of the series also includes Sunny Day — Nay Mayo “Day” Thot of the popular rap group Thaiatnium.
Sci-fi comedy, AI5YA, meanwhile, is created by Malaysia’s beloved comedian Afdlin Shauk and stars another popular comedian in Zizan Razak. Romantic comedy Seribu Nina is also set to be launched for the Malaysian audience.
When it comes to their Korean market, much-awaited Korean originals such as Again My Life is based on a web novel published on KakaoPage, will star Lee Joon-Gi, Lee Geung-Young, and Kim Ji-Eun.
From Now On, Showtime features famous actor Park Hae-Jin and Jin Ki-Joo, who has appeared in The Secret Life of My Secretary and Come & Hug Me.
The drama is written by Ha Yoon-Ah, who wrote the script for the fantasy-comedy drama Mystic Pop-up Bar in 2020.
Another upcoming Viu Original is Why Her?, a romantic legal dram. It stars popular actors Seo Hyun-Jin, known for her roles in Dr. Romantic and the Beauty Inside. There’s also Hwang In-Yeop, who received attention for his role in True Beauty.
Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay 2.0: Cut through the queue
Make life less hectic!
When you’re an adult, coffee isn’t just a power-up drink helping you get through the day. It becomes an avenue for conversation, an invitation to meet people, a kick you need to fuel your creativity and productivity.
While there are several ways to brew coffee and there are different local neighborhood cafés to explore, Starbucks has always been within reach. And it has ingrained itself as an important part of my working life. A staple of the modern workforce’s culture. A lifestyle — tradition to an extent — that seeped in through the interstices of friendships and family.
When the pandemic struck, I started learning how to brew my own coffee. Occasionally, I order my caffeine fix through Grab or Foodpanda. But the experience isn’t the same.
Keyword: Experience. That’s precisely what Starbucks offers. So when Starbucks Philippines sent me a holiday card to try the new Mobile Order & Pay, a feature they had for a while that was rehashed, I decided it’s time to go out and try again.
Exploring the app
The Mobile Order & Pay 2.0 is available through the Starbucks app. If you’re a Starbucks lover, you probably have an account registered to Starbucks Rewards. The app is easy to use, particularly because of its clean user interface (UI) design.
Through the Starbucks app, you can check your account’s transaction history, monitor the stars collected via the Rewards program, and make some changes to your personal profile and payment methods. The app also has a lot of promotional materials, parading their latest drinks and treats that you can avail yourself of in-store or online.
And more importantly, you can reload your account, register your cards, and of course, get ahead of your day and order your favorite beverages.
Cut through the line
Once I got my cards settled in, I ordered my go-to drink: Cold brew topped with four pumps of white mocha sauce. I placed my order through the Mobile Order & Pay 2.0 feature, which gave me four options to pick up my order. Although, the options vary depending on the closest branch near you.
There’s the usual In-store pickup where you head straight to the pickup counter for your order. Yes, you won’t get in line anymore. When I tried this pickup option, everyone gave me looks when I went past the queue and headed straight to ask the Barista about my order. I had the audacity to ask about my drink because the app notified me when the order was ready.
When I got my drink, I walked out of the store feeling ravished. It felt like I was in a slow-mo montage of a coming-of-age film where the protagonist suddenly did something extraordinary. Frankly, this is my favorite pickup option. It makes so much sense to just get your orders if you can walk inside. And that gives you extra steps for your smartwatch to count. Get moving, people!
But if you don’t like the hassle of scanning your QR codes and getting your temperature checked, or the usual mumbo-jumbo you encounter inside a store, there are other pickup options outside.
Just wait outside
My other favorite option was the Outdoor pickup, which I chose when I was passing by Starbucks The Grove — my favorite branch in Pasig. I was dead-tired from a weekend night-out with my friends at Okada Manila, and the all-night casino adventure bled through a Monday morning.
I was on my way home, ready for work. Then, I realized I badly need the good ol’ Barista Drink. Nothing can beat an americano topped with white mocha sauce splashed with sub-breve (and no water!). Especially when it comes to waking you and your senses up. More importantly, you can have it served iced or hot depending on your preferences.
I placed my order when I was already in Arcovia City, a kilometer away from The Grove by Rockwell. Apparently, you can’t order ahead for an Outdoor pickup if you’re 3 kilometers away, which I tried to do when I was still in Taguig. So you have to be close to the branch if you want to place your order.
I tried to do the math in my head, calculating if I can pull over for a minute while I wait for my order. But I’m bad at numbers so I went ahead. The app said the order will be ready in five to six minutes anyway.
I pulled over when I arrived at the branch, and I didn’t wait long enough for one of my favorite baristas to come out to my chosen pickup point and hand me my order.
Stay in your car
I hate parking. Or wasting the time spent trying to park properly in between enormous SUVs. Or finding a spot to park your vehicle. This is why I don’t understand the Curbside pickup option, where the barista locates your designated parking slot and gives your order while practicing social and safe distancing.
I tried the pickup option in Starbucks Sierra Valley — a humongous, stand-alone branch with a massive parking space and drive-thru option found east of Metro Manila.
If you’re in a time crunch, this option really doesn’t make sense. But if you have a few moments to spare and you don’t want to get out of your vehicle for safety measures against the COVID-19 (and its variants), then the Curbside pickup is the way to go.
Frankly speaking, it doesn’t work for me. I know having your order brought to you is part of the experience, but I value my time. And it was against my morals to just sit inside my car and wait for the barista to come out and bring my order. In my head, they could be doing more valuable things than going outside the store, when I can pick up my order at their counter.
The In-store pickup is the fastest option in my experience, and I feel good doing the task instead of sitting and waiting around. I guess it’s my can-do attitude speaking, but that’s how I’m really built.
Drive through it
Now, there’s another option to get your order: Drive-thru pickup. You just have to line up in a queue of cars and wait for your turn. Like the Curbside pickup option, I didn’t like the Drive-thru pickup for one reason: It takes too long to get through the drive-thru window.
People are afraid to get out of their vehicles because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that’s valid. That’s why there are plenty of cars lining up to get their caffeine fix. I spent roughly 30 minutes waiting for my turn, which annoyed me since it would’ve been faster if I chose the In-store or Outdoor pickup.
Making life less hectic
Regardless of my rants and experience, the Mobile Order & Pay 2.0 lets you get your favorite treats and beverages conveniently. In the way you like it.
While I’ve loved the In-store and Outdoor pick-up because they work well with my personality and lifestyle, I know some people (read: friends) would enjoy the Curbside and Drive-thru pickup. Especially since they’re cautious about the pandemic.
Not that I’m not wary of the virus being out there, I just value my time because every second counts. If I wanted to waste my time waiting, I would’ve lined up inside.
Nevertheless, the rehashed feature is worth giving a try. Through the Starbucks app, you can customize your orders. Just like your baristas, the app can modify the size, the number of espresso shots, dairy selection, and various options for your order. All done with just a single tap on your smartphone.
Frankly speaking, the Mobile Pay & Order 2.0 made my life easier especially when I’m in a hurry to get a caffeine fix. Not all days can be spent brewing your coffee, living in a slowed-down lifestyle. Some days, we just need to get through it, and Starbucks knows how to accompany me through those days.
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