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Top 5 announcements from Google I/O 2016

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Usually a conference for computer programmers or app developers isn’t what everyday users will find exciting. But Google’s annual I/O conference is always worth looking out for.

Google, after all, is one of the most exciting companies in the tech world, and whether you like it or not, it will play a huge part in our daily lives, if not already. Beyond computers, smartphones, and wearables, technology is changing life as we know it, and Google intends to be in the thick of it.

At Google I/O 2016, we saw a glimpse of how it intends on living up to that promise. Here are our favorite announcements from the two-hour keynote address.

Google Assistant

It’s only fitting to start with Google Assistant. At first, it felt like an upgrade to Google Now, which, sadly, is best described as Google’s version of Siri. Except that Google Now is leaps and bounds better and smarter than Siri. And Google Assistant, theoretically better than Google Now.

Google says it wants to evolve search and make it more assistive, and soon you’ll find Google Assistant built into a variety of Google products, both software and hardware. There’s much to say about it, but it’s best that you watch the video below.

Google Home

Thank God I haven’t bought an Amazon Echo yet. The cylindrical device is all the rage these days, and it has blown up way beyond even what Amazon ever imagined.

What’s the fuss about? At its core, Echo is a bluetooth speaker with built-in sensors and a microphone. But it’s more than that — it’s a voice-controlled hub for your home. It connects to a variety of home devices you can control by issuing voice commands.

It’s pretty darn amazing, and very easily the wave of the future. Remember how a couple of years ago everyone was talking about The Internet of Things? I believe devices such as these are what’s needed to bring it all together and make IoT a reality for everyone. 

At I/O, Google generously recognized the innovations Amazon has been making in this space, and then announced Google Home, their take on Echo. What will set Home apart is Google Assistant integration, which lets you harness the power of Google’s deep machine learning to accomplish a myriad of tasks.

google-home-living-room

Google VR

It’s only a matter of time till VR content becomes as ubiquitous as photos and video. There are now plenty of VR cameras and VR headsets on offer. Facebook is also pushing for 360-degree video heavily. For its part, Google says the next version of Android will use a new standard called Daydream and will introduce new VR features to phones that support them.

Allo

Do we really need another messaging app? Google believes so.

Coming this summer to iOS and Android devices, the app called Allo can do everything every other popular messaging app already do. You can send text, photos, video, and of course, stickers. Security nerds can go into Incognito Mode to encrypt chats, and like Snapchat you can also set a time frame, after which your message disintegrates into digital dust.

Google says it’s introducing a new way to shout and whisper by allowing users to slide their fingers to increase the size of text messages. Large fonts equals shouting, tiny fonts equals whispering.

But what’s most interesting about Allo is Smart Reply, which lets you respond to messages without typing a single word. For example, when your friend sends you a photo of a dog, the app is smart enough to know what’s in the picture. Allo will then immediately suggest replies like “Awwww” or “Cute.”

You can also summon Google Assistant while discussing dinner plans with your significant other, and it can help you find a restaurant and book a table, all from the chat window.

Duo

Google is taking on Apple’s FaceTime with its own video-calling app. Sure, Google still has Hangouts – and to be honest, we’re not sure if that app is going away.

What will set Duo apart from FaceTime is that it’s multiplatform, meaning it will work on iOS and Android so you can call your iOS friends and vice versa. Also unique to Duo is a feature called Knock Knock that shows you a live preview of the person calling, even before you pick it up.

It sounds a bit creepy at first, especially if you don’t want to answer the call. Thankfully, the other person can’t see you until you pick up. Still, we can imagine instances where the circumstances of the call will make you want to answer it ASAP.  

Android N

For the first time ever, Google is crowdsourcing the name of its next Android version. Recall that previous versions of Android are named after a tasty treat. The most recent (in order of release) being Jellybean, KitKat, Lollipop, and Marshmallow.

N is next in line, and the possibilities are endless. Instead of announcing a name at the keynote address, as they sometimes do, Google is giving all of us an opportunity to join the brainstorming process. If you have a few ideas in mind, visit android.com/n to submit them. Or take a look at our suggestions.

android-n-submit-a-name

CES 2018

Episode 001: Getting lost at the world’s largest tech show

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In this first epidose of GadgetMatch Podcast we talk about the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2018) which just wrapped up in Las Vegas. Michael Josh and Isa share behind the scenes challenges of covering the world’s largest tech show. And the team talks about the most attention grabbing tech from the show including an entire range of Artificial Intelligence and Google Assistant gadgets, Vivo’s new phone with an in-display fingerprint sensor, Sony’s new robot dog, and Razer’s Project Linda.

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Apps

How to hide from Instragram’s new Activity Status feature

It’s on by default!

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Instagram silently rolled out a new feature of its app. If you don’t like your friends to know that you’re online (and also protect your privacy), you might want to take action. Why? Because it’s automatically turned on.

If you have the latest app, you probably noticed something new inside the Direct Messages section. This new feature dubbed “Activity Status” lets your Instagram buddies know if you’re online. If you happen to be scrolling through your timeline moments ago, the status will show that you’ve been available earlier.

This is switched on by default but the data is only shared with users that you follow and those you message privately. There’s no need to panic if you think a stalker will know that you’re online — unless you follow them, too.

How to turn it off?

You can easily switch it off inside the app. Just go to your profile page and tap the top-right icon for Options.

Next, scroll down until you see “Show Activity Status” and switch the toggle button beside.

That’s it! Now that it’s off on your end, your status will not show up to your buddies. Although, you won’t be able to see the status of other accounts as well.

Since the new feature was smoothly included in the recent updates from the Play Store or App Store, it’s not clear when Instagram introduced the function. Some might not have it yet, which could mean it’s still an experimental approach with a limited number of users.

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Automotive

The Best Car Tech of CES 2018

Exciting times ahead!

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We recently wrapped up CES 2018 (see our top picks) and even though the trade show originally revolved around consumer electronics, a big chunk of what was introduced was directed towards connected cities with a focus on making driving a lot smarter.

The idea of self-driving cars surely isn’t new and has been around for quite some time now. It’s basically the concept of what the future is like in addition to flying cars. At this year’s CES, brands who participated made us realize that this “future” isn’t too far away.

Here are some of the most promising cars and car technology that we’re excited to see in the near future.

Assistance

Multiple brands showed off their new toys left and right. There’s the announcement of Amazon’s Alexa coming to cars for voice assistance and content consumption. Toyota will be the next to adapt voice assistance in addition to BMW, Ford, and Hyundai. Meanwhile, Waze has also been integrated into select infotainment systems.

Nissan, on the other hand, is taking the user-machine a step further by introducing the brain-to-vehicle (B2V) technology. It basically uses a system that could read your brain patterns and signals to better prepare for what you’re about to do next while driving.

Platforms

In terms of services, Ford is slightly stepping out of the shadow of car-making and plans to be the new platform for autonomous vehicles. It has partnered with Lyft, Domino’s Pizza, and Postmates to create an operating system which small to large businesses can use for their unique services.

Speaking of unique services, Toyota unveiled its e-Palette concept vehicle which has all the potential to go big in the future of mobility. It’s envisioned as a self-driving vehicle running on Toyota’s tech and platform that other brands can use for food deliveries, as a moving boutique, or even a mobile hotel that you can rent.

As far as ride-sharing goes, expect it to join the bandwagon as smart cities are developed. During the trade show, car tech company Aptiv was present and was hand-in-hand with Lyft as they demonstrated their self-driving cars to the participants of CES. The public could just hail a ride from the Las Vegas Convention Center using the app and enjoy the view of the Strip to their destination.

Additionally, NVIDIA has also added Uber and Volkswagen to their growing roster of brands that will run on the company’s self-driving computer platform.

Cars

Apart from the new platforms, there were cars — quite a lot, actually. From concept to actual models on display, we got a peek at these vehicles that probably want to take on Tesla.

Derived from Bytes on Wheels, BYTON wants to blur the line between digital and automotive with their electric intelligent SUV concept. The new-gen smart device communicates with users and pedestrians via lights and patterns on its grille and recognizes the driver and passengers by face.

Kia was also present with its very own Niro electric crossover. This concept is basically an electric version of the Niro Hybrid but gets a new grille design. Like BYTON, it is now an interactive panel with a built-in Active Pedestrian Warning System, but what makes this something to look forward to is its range. It can go as far 383km (238 miles) before needing to charge again — beating what the Tesla Model 3 can offer.

Car designer Henrik Fisker gave another shot at making vehicles; this time in the form of the EMotion luxury sedan. The vehicle is a level 4 autonomous car and is equipped with the world’s first Butterfly Doors. Fisker also wants to set standards for other EVs so they made the vehicle last up to 644km (400 miles) on the road.

Meanwhile, Hyundai is continuing its push to go green and introduced the NEXO fuel cell electric vehicle. It has a more efficient engine, is a lot quieter, and maintenance is kept to a minimum. Although the best thing about it is that it emits nothing but water vapor. Features-wise, it has autonomous driving, self-parking, self-retrieval — the whole shebang.

In-vehicle Networking

Software updates are an important aspect of vehicles relying on digital systems. Tesla has somehow established its system already but for other car brands, updating hundreds, even thousands of vehicles across a country, is still not an easy task.

Hyundai and Cisco addressed this and aims to overhaul the process of in-vehicle networking. With the use of Ethernet connectivity and the Automotive Linux platform, they promise to be able to roll out updates remotely and it’s as simple as pushing a button.

 

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