Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘google

Google’s Assistant is Building An Ecosystem

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I’m not at CES.

Never have been, never will be.

But I did sleep at a Holiday Inn last night.

Actually, I didn’t.

What I meant to say is I still read news coverage of CES to find out all about the great technology stuff I’m missing.

Yesterday’s blog theme was VR, so it only stands to reason today should focus on smart assistant(ce).

I’m bullish on AI for smart assistants, even if it’s just to do the simple stuff like setting timers and reminders.

I bought an Amazon Tap a couple of years ago, and I use it primarily for those reasons, and to listen to Bloomberg Radio or to play my Flash Brief.

Over the holidays, I bought my parents and sister a Google Home.  My parents use it primarily to have it make animal noises that amuse their pet schnauzer.

I tried to teach them how to use it to turn on Netflix with their voice, but that was a bridge too far. They just wanted to see what was on Netflix, and apparently that was too complicated a task for Google Home.

Which gets me to my point: Smart assistants(ce) should be easy to use, as obvious as possible, and not require a CS degree to program. How do you take a device that nobody knows how to use and for which there are no instructions, and teach them to use it.

One task at a time.

That means better tutorials, better help, and most of all, more intuitive asks of the device.

That’s why I think that Google Assistant is currently winning this race. I’ve not used Cortana much because it’s from Microsoft, and I’m not a big MS fan.

I’ve tried to use Siri, but it’s mostly frustrating.

I’ve successfully used Alexa and Google Assistant, and of them all, I’m still most bullish on Google Assistant. 

Google started harvesting voice phonemes via Grand Central and, later, Google Voice, long before most of us knew what the grand plan was.

But the grand plan seems evident to me, which was to create a clear and concise pathway between human voice requests and the AI backend required for successful task accomplishment.

They’ve mostly succeeded, although GA is still eager and still learning.

But the wide swath of announcements Google is making for Assistant at CES this week, I believe, demonstrates that GA was able to move from a far second or third very much into first place in the smart assistant race.

As one example, they’re announcing Google Assistant Connect, which allows third-party developers and manufacturers to finally join the GA party the way Alexa developers have been able to do for some time now:

Today we’re introducing a preview of Google Assistant Connect, a platform for device manufacturers to bring the Google Assistant into their products in an affordable and easy-to-implement way. Connect uses our existing smart home platform to expand to new device types while making device setup and discovery simple for people.

Assistant Connect creates opportunities to bring different types of smart devices to the market. For example, a partner could create a simple and inexpensive e-ink display that continually projects the weather or your calendar, while using Assistant Connect to deliver content from your linked smart speaker. The Google Assistant handles the higher-order computing—knowing what’s on the calendar, checking for updates, and so on. We’ll have more to share about Assistant Connect and how device makers can gain access to the technology later this year. For device manufacturers who want to learn more about how to integrate Assistant Connect, fill out this form.

This new SDK should let the genius of GA move far beyond the confines of Mountain View and into the hands of developers and device makers around the world.

But hey, you can still do the golden oldies: “Hey Google, what kind of sound does a cow make?”

If it doesn’t respond by saying “Moo,” you might just want to RTFM…if they had one!

Written by turbotodd

January 9, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Posted in 2019

Tagged with , ,

Google in the Hot Box

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai is in the hotbox today on Capitol Hill as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee.

I’ve had some of the later testimony on in the background, and there have already been lots of questions about data and data sharing, preloaded apps, privacy, DoubleClick cookies and the merging of offline data (which I found sooo 1999!).

The New York Times is following much more closely, and here are some highlights of what they’ve observed:

Republican lawmakers displayed the party’s growing distrust toward Google, raising a broad array of tough questions on the search giant’s market power, plans to relaunch service in China, and whether the site suppresses conservative content. At the core of their questions was a concern over the company’s commitment to free expression.

Kevin McCarthy, House Republican Leader, had this to say:

“All of these topics — competition, censorship, bias, and others — point to one fundamental question that demands the nation’s attention. Are America’s technology companies serving as instruments of freedom or instruments of control?”

There was also discussion around liberal-leaning biases of employees and whether or not those biases “affect[ed] filtering decisions for its search engine,” a claim many right-leaning leaders have suggested in the past.

Location information was also prevalent, and Texas Republican Ted Poe held up his own smartphone and asked Pichai if Google was tracking his whereabouts if we walked to the other side of the room.

Pichai’s response: “Not by default,” suggesting it depended on the congressman’s app settings.

The Times also observed that Google’s been taking heat both internally and externally for “Project Dragonfly,” it’s initiative to build a censored search engine that could be used in the Chinese market.

My observation: Regulation of American Internet giants is not a question of if, but when, and how much. They’ve amassed too much personal data far too quickly and treated it with reckless abandon, and now the question becomes what measures can an American regulatory regime take that has both teeth for the consumer but doesn’t stifle innovation for industry.  

It’s a tall order and a complicated ask, but they, that’s why all those lobbyists get paid the big bucks! ; )

Written by turbotodd

December 11, 2018 at 12:43 pm

The Google Walkout

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What’s going on on this fine Thursday?

Quite a lot, actually.

But speficially, Google is finding itself in the middle of a significant employee walkout (mostly by women), one that started in its Tokyo offices and has been working its way around the world.

The New York Times has a detailed run down of the specific grievances here.

For one, they’ve asked Google to end its use of private arbitration in cases of alleged sexual assault and harassment.

They’ve also demanded the publication of a transparency report on instances of sexual harassment, further disclosures of salaries and compensation, an employee representative on the company board, and a chief diversity officer who can speak directly to the Alphabet board.

The seven employees who organized the walkout had this to say:

Today at 11:10 a.m. in every time zone in which the protest is taking place, employees at nearly two thirds of Google’s global offices are walking out of their offices. We, the seven core organizers of today’s Google Walkout, represent thousands of Google employees in our call to demand change.

All employees and contract workers across the company deserve to be safe. Sadly, the executive team has demonstrated through their lack of meaningful action that our safety is not a priority. We’ve waited for leadership to fix these problems, but have come to this conclusion: no one is going to do it for us. So we are here, standing together, protecting and supporting each other. We demand an end to the sexual harassment, discrimination, and the systemic racism that fuel this destructive culture.

We are building on the work of others. Many at Google have been advocating for structural change for years. It’s their legacy and leadership that made this moment possible. We are a small part of a massive movement that has been growing for a long time. We are inspired by everyone from the women in fast food who led an action against sexual harassment to the thousands of women in the #metoo movement who have been the beginning of the end for this type of abuse.

So today, over 60 percent of all Google offices, and thousands of Google employees will walk out, around the world.

You can read their full post on The Cut here. 

The times they are a changin’.

Written by turbotodd

November 1, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Bigger, Better, Badder Pixels

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Well, uh, that was awkward. 

Just a day after Google had to come clean about its Google+ privacy debacle (and announced the imminent demise of G+ for consumers once and for all), Google announced some new members of its hardware family.

I’m an iPhone guy, but I did purchase a Google Pixelbook chromebook earlier this year that I’ve been very happy with, so at minimum I wanted to pass along the speeds and feeds from yesterday’s Google Pixel 3/XL Android smartphone announcements.

The Verge has this tight breakdown:

The Pixel 3 starts at $799 for 64GB, with the 3 XL costing $899. Add $100 to either for the 128GB storage option. That’s a $150 and $50 premium over last year’s models, respectively.. Core specs for both include a Snapdragon 845, 4GB RAM (there’s no option for more), Bluetooth 5.0, and front-facing stereo speakers. Also inside is a new Titan M security chip, which Google says provides “on-device protection for login credentials, disk encryption, app data, and the integrity of the operating system.” Preorders for both phones begin today, and buyers will get six months of free YouTube Music service. The Pixels will officially launch on October 18th.

The Pixel 3 and 3 XL both feature larger screens than last year’s models thanks to slimmed down bezels — and the controversial notch in the case of the bigger phone. The 3 XL has a 6.3-inch display (up from six inches on the 2 XL), while the regular 3 has a 5.5-inch screen (up from five inches). Overall, though, the actual phones are very similar in size and handling to their direct predecessors.

And Google’s own blog post explains how the Pixel 3 will help you keep from talking to those undesirable humans you’re trying to avoid:

…Starting out in English in the U.S., Pixel 3’s on-device AI helps you screen phone calls and avoid spam calls. Imagine you’re at dinner with family or in a meeting at work and a call from an unknown caller comes in. Just tap on “Screen call” to find out who’s calling and why, as well as other information (as prompted by you). You’ll immediately see a transcript of the caller’s responses so that you can then decide whether to pick up, respond by tapping a quick reply (e.g., “I’ll call you back later”), or mark the call as spam and dismiss. Processing the call details on-device means these experiences are fast, private to you, and use up less battery.

Second, Pixel users in the U.S. will be the first to get access to an experimental new Google Assistant feature, powered by Duplex technology, which helps you complete real-world tasks over the phone, like calling a restaurant to book a table. This feature will initially be available later this year in New York, Atlanta, Phoenix and the San Francisco Bay Area to help people book restaurant reservations and will roll out to other U.S. cities in the future.

Because why talk to even yet another human to make a restaurant reservation when your Google Assistant can do all the work?

Written by turbotodd

October 10, 2018 at 9:44 am

Posted in 2018, google, privacy, smartphone

Tagged with ,

Google Hides A Bug

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Happy Monday.

If it’s Monday, it must be a security and/or privacy breach day!

In today’s privacy cluster—— spotlight, The Wall Street Journal informs us that Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ social network — and then opted not to disclose the issue this past spring.

According to the story, the company did so “in part because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage.”

This from the very same company that refused to send a very senior executive to the recent tech hearings on Capitol Hill (as opposed to Facebook and Twitter, who sent their COO and CEO, respectively).

Here’s the rundown on the core of the technical glitch and failed response:

A software glitch in the social site gave outside developers potential access to private Google+ profile data between 2015 and March 2018, when internal investigators discovered and fixed the issue, according to the documents and people briefed on the incident. A memo reviewed by the Journal prepared by Google’s legal and policy staff and shared with senior executives warned that disclosing the incident would likely trigger “immediate regulatory interest” and invite comparisons to Facebook’s leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica….

….The internal memo from legal and policy staff says the company has no evidence that any outside developers misused the data but acknowledges it has no way of knowing for sure. The profile data that was exposed included full names, email addresses, birth dates, gender, profile photos, places lived, occupation and relationship status; it didn’t include phone numbers, email messages, timeline posts, direct messages or any other type of communication data, one of the people said.

The PII crown jewels, if you will.  

In response, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is going to announce “a sweeping set of data privacy measures that include permanently shutting down all consumer functionality of Google+.”

To which millions of tech geeks like myself around the globe publicly ponder, “Is Google+ even still a thing?!!”

So you think that Google search history of yours that you wouldn’t want your spouse or closest friends and colleagues to see is still safe?!!

Think again.

Want to send Serge and Larry and the gang a message?  Go to the following page and delete your entire Google history:

https://myactivity.google.com/delete-activity

Written by turbotodd

October 8, 2018 at 1:18 pm

Posted in 2018, google, privacy

Tagged with , ,

Google’s Freaky Deaky

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Happy Hump Day.

First, it’s been a while since I wrote much about golf, and The Player’s Championship starts tomorrow at TPC Sawgrass, so I thought I would start with my list of likely winners (and in no particular order): Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, and Jordan Spieth. 

Now watch none of those win because *I* called it! 

Now, back on the tech front, Facebook has announced a sweeping new reorganization, according to Recode, appointing Chief Product Officer Chris Cox to now lead Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, and Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer to oversee AR/VR, AI, and Facebook’s foray into the blockchain.

Back over on the subcontinent, Walmart has agreed to a $16 billion deal to buy a majority stake in India’s Flipkart. Flipkart is an Indian e-commerce company based out of Bengaluru, 

According to a report from CNBC, Wallmart said it would acquire an initial stake of roughly 77 percent in Flipkart, while the remainder of the business would be held by existing investors.

More details:

Walmart said in a statement that its long-term aim would be to support Flipkart’s transition into a publicly-listed subsidiary. The retailer said it expects India’s e-commerce market to grow at four times the rate of the overall retail industry.

Walmart’s president and chief executive, Doug McMillon, said the investment in Flipkart was part of the company’s aim to invest in India’s fast-growing economy.

“India is one of the most attractive retail markets in the world, given its size and growth rate, and our investment is an opportunity to partner with the company that is leading transformation of e-commerce in the market,” McMillon said in a statement.

As for Google’s announcements at the first day of Google’s developer confab, Google I/O, yesterday, get ready to take some notes.

Google announced: Android P; AD-2, an Android TV streaming HDMI stick (for developers only, for now); App Bundles (lets Android devs define which parts of an app to download on a specific device); Android Jetpack (set of components to speed up app development); ML Kit (an SDK for devs to add AI smarts to iOS and Android apps).

That’s just some of what was announced. 

The most impressive demo at Day 1 was of Google Duplex, where the company demoed the Google Assistant calling another human to make reservations for a hair cut appointment. If watching that demo didn’t completely freak you out and, at the same time, be excited about watching as our robot overlords prepare to take over, I don’t know what will.

You can read more about how it works here.

Written by turbotodd

May 9, 2018 at 9:08 am

Posted in 2018, facebook

Tagged with ,

Google Input/Output

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Google I/O, the company’s annual developer confab, kicks off tomorrow (Tuesday, May 9th) in Mountain View.

The Verge provided a preview, and indicated there would be new news across the Google and Alphabet board, including information about its new wearable platform, Wear OS; Google Assistant to Android TV; Google Home; Google Play; and Search.

On the Android front, The Verge reports the new version will be called simply, “P,” and is “focused on making room for the now pervasive display notch on full-screen smartphones, giving users more granular privacy settings, and unifying and simplifying the design language and usability of menus, docks, and settings screens.”

On the AI front, The Verge says to expect more details on Google Lens, and the TensorFlow platform and Tensor Processing Unit chips (which are at the core of Google’s specially designed AI training systems).

And for Google Wear (rebranded from Android Wear), the Wear OS has been in developer preview and is expected to have improvements to battery life and more inclusion of Google Assistant features.

Also expect some new news about Google Assistant more broadly, and the accompanying Google Home hardware family, as well as info on Google Photos, News, Play and the company’s new gaming startup, Arcade.

You can check out the full Google I/O schedule here.

Written by turbotodd

May 7, 2018 at 9:27 am

Posted in 2018, android, developers

Tagged with , , ,

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