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”]
Grab introduces new cashless payment through Cash-in With Driver
A new way to go cashless!
Because of the pandemic, Grab’s GrabCar service has adopted cashless payments only. With more people still opting for cash for their commutes, Grab pushes a new feature to make their service safe and reliable — Cash-in with Driver.
This feature allows commuters to use GrabCar by paying cash through the driver. All you have to do is activate your GrabPay wallet during the ride, pay cash to the driver, and receive your change back on your GrabPay wallet.
Grab hopes the new feature allows more commuters to switch gradually towards a cashless lifestyle, and enjoy GrabPay benefits. For instance, there’s GrabRewards points that can be used for certain deals, promos, save on Grab transactions, and make seamless cashless payments across GrabPay’s partners.
Cash-in with Driver will be available on GrabCar 2-seater and 4-seater in Metro Manila. For Cebu and Pampanga, it will be available in GrabBayanihan Car and GrabCar 2-seater. Additionally, it’s expected to come soon on GrabTaxi.
The new feature will fully roll out by November 2020. Simply update your Grab app to the latest version, and you can start embracing a cashless lifestyle. Learn more about Cash-in with Driver via this link.
Zoom is now rolling out end-to-end encryption for free, paid users
But there’s a twist
Video conferencing service Zoom has announced it’s rolling out end-to-end encryption for all users globally. It’s now available for users as a technical preview for the next 30 days and users can provide feedback.
The technical preview means the company is still working on the feature and user feedback could bring changes to the end implementation. End-to-end encryption means that the company hosting the service too cannot snoop around. The encryption key is saved with the user and all communication between two people remains secured.
The feature is opt-in only, meaning users have to manually go to the Settings tab and enable end-to-end encryption. You’ll also be prompted to create a one-time passcode, which Zoom says will help them prevent abuse. By default, Zoom meetings and webinars use AES 256-bit GCM encryption for audio, video, and application sharing.
Due to the added security layer, you won’t be able to dial-in on calls via an ordinary phone. Additionally, it’ll disable a few features like join before host, cloud recording, streaming, live transcription, Breakout Rooms, polling, 1:1 private chat, and meeting reactions.
End-to-end encryption is available on Mac and PC, the Zoom Android app, and Zoom Rooms. It’s yet to roll-out on iOS since the updated patch hasn’t received approval from Apple’s App Store yet.
Zoom says that this is just a part of their security update and the company plans to roll out better identity management and E2EE SSO integration as part of phase 2. Altough, the latter is scheduled for 2021.
Lastly, Zoom for Android has received a new update and it brings along support for live streaming to YouTube.
Acer has an In-Game Live AI Translator on their own esports platform
It’s called SigridWave and the platform is Planet9
Acer introduces SigridWave — an In-Game Live AI Translator for Planet9 which is the company’s next-generation esports platform. There’s a lot to unpack here so try to digest the information slowly.
SigridWave: In-Game Live AI Translator
SigridWave aims to break language barriers and facilitate communication among gamers around the world. It leverages deep learning tech and is especially trained in gaming jargon.
When in-game, SigridWave employs Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology to recognize utterances and convert them into strings of text. This text is then run through a Neural Machine Translation (NMT) technology. The NMT Tech has so far been trained with over 10 million bilingual sentence pairs, enabling it to understand the terminology associated with specific games (such as “ADS” or “camping”) and learn how players express themselves.
If your nose is bleeding after reading all of that, don’t worry. Same.
Intended specifically for gaming, SigridWave’s AI has so far been trained with over 1,000 hours of game-centric speech (voice + transcript), enabling it to accurately relay detected messages back to users in a language that they can understand.
Being game-centric is key. Acer points out that the biggest hurdle in machine translation is context. Many words can carry multiple meanings and computers struggle to discern the most suitable translation for the situation, that’s why being focused on gaming is essential.
SigridWave will have a closed beta in Q4 2020, during which time it will be available for two-way translation between English and Mandarin in a number of major FPS titles such as Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege.
SigridWave will work in tandem with Planet9 — a next gen esports platform. The AI Translator is booted up while in a game lobby on Planet9’s desktop client. It’ll appear as a customizable in-game overlay.
The platform itself is meant to be partly competitive and partly social. It’s designed to provide an open community for casual and amateur players who want to improve their skills and take steps towards going pro.
The platform helps players connect with others via teams and social clubs; to improve their skills, via in-depth feedback on gameplay in the form of statistics and coaching; and to experience organized gameplay, via casual or ranked scrimmages and competitive tournaments for most games.
In-game overlays will be supported for League of Legends on launch in late 2020 or early 2021, and support will be made available for additional titles in the future.
Planet9 strives to help gamers connect with others who have similar skill levels and aspirations. From there, players can create a team to be registered on the website or search for one to join.
Planet9 will also help recruiting teams to fill their rosters, considering factors such as game played, rank, region and language in order to identify potential teammates.
Once a team is established, a private team page is created on the platform to function as a central hub for all involved. In addition to keeping track of match history and statistics for later review and discussion, the team hub includes a number of features to help keep everything organized: a board for discussion and polls, a group calendar for scheduling scrimmages, a tab to keep track of team funding and a directory with basic stats on all members.
Planet9’s Club feature is intended to help players keep up with groups they like or admire, whether they’re major names in the industry or a local university team. Clubs consist of two parts, a public “home” page for followers and a private “lounge” for members.
The home page is a place to share content (posts, polls, videos, etc) in order to engage with the community, whereas the lounge is a place to relax and discuss club-related content with a smaller circle of more dedicated members.
Businesses, influencers and public figures are also capable of forming a club on Planet9, creating a unique new touchpoint for brands that wish to connect with gamers. Whether professional or amateur, each club is granted access to a variety of tools to host tournaments in order to grow their own community.
Planet9 recently partnered with Currys PC World to feature Planet9 in its stores in order to enhance esports initiatives in the UK and Ireland. This includes an in-house designed arena to give players a chance to see what it’s like being part of a local gaming club, practicing with teammates and learning from coaches.
These in-house arenas will launch soon with a rapid expansion to 30 stores throughout 2021. Each of the stores will open its own club on Planet9 to grow its gamer community as well as to host tournaments, creating a pipeline for players to show off their talent.
Planet9 includes a significant amount of infrastructure designed to make the process of organizing and hosting tournaments as seamless as possible.
An extensive UI ensures that a successful tournament can be put together even by those with no experience, while a number of automation features (registration, bracket mastering, etc.) enable experienced hosts to minimize time spent on tedious activities and focus on providing as enjoyable an event as possible.
Tournaments are highly customizable, featuring a number of preset brackets and privacy modes, opportunities for sponsored branding and club-determined rewards. Come game day, an all-in-one “Bracket Master” console makes it easy for judges and organizers to communicate, configure matches, broadcast to an audience and more.
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