Google I/O 2023: Ten takeaways from annual conference in Mountain View

After the event, shares in its parent company Alphabet rose more than 4%

Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google, at the company's conference in Mountain View, California. Bloomberg
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Alphabet-owned Google announced a host of new products and features at its annual Google I/O conference in Mountain View, California, on Wednesday.

After the announcements, Alphabet's shares were up more than 4 per cent trading at $111.75 a share at market close on Wednesday.

Here, The National looks at 10 major takeaways from the event.

Giving users more control of their data

Google said it is making updates to the Android 14 operating system to boost transparency about how users' data is handled by third-party apps.

Starting with location data, users will be informed in permission requests when an app shares their information with third parties for advertising purposes.

“You can use this information to decide if you want to approve or decline location-sharing for each app so you are always in control,” said Jen Fitzpatrick, senior vice president, core systems and experiences at Google.

“We are also adding a new ‘data deletion’ area within an app’s Google Play data safety section, making it easy to request your account or other data be deleted."

Duet AI for Google Cloud

To help cloud users of all skill levels, the company announced duet AI for Google Cloud.

It is a new generative AI-powered collaborator that will serve as an expert programmer and help cloud users with contextual code completion, offering suggestions tuned to their code base, generating entire functions in real-time, and assisting with code reviews and inspections, the company said.

“It can fundamentally transform the way cloud users of all skill sets build new experiences,” said Thomas Kurian, chief executive of Google Cloud.

"For developers looking to create generative AI applications more simply and efficiently, we are also introducing new foundation models."

How Android is improving your drive

Google announced new updates for vehicles compatible with Android Auto and cars with Google built-in to help drivers easily navigate, stay connected and keep themselves entertained.

Available in nearly 200 million cars by the end of this year, the newly redesigned Android Auto will let users access thousands of media, messaging, navigation, parking and charging apps right from their car display.

“Soon you will be able to join important meetings without taking your eyes off the road," said Roshan Khan, director of auto product management at Google.

"We are working with partners to bring Microsoft Teams, Webex by Cisco and Zoom to the car so you can easily join a scheduled meeting by audio from your display."

Magic Editor to add to Google Photos' abilities

Google announced Magic Editor will allow users to enhance the overall composition of the image by repositioning the main subject of the shot to the best spot.

Using a combination of artificial intelligence tools, Magic Editor aims to help users make complex edits without pro-level editing skills.

The company plans to give select Pixel phones early access to Magic Editor later this year.

Since its launch in 2015, Google Photos app has used AI from automatically organising and resurfacing of photos to helping users edit them with advanced tools.

On an average, users edit nearly 1.7 billion photos each month in Google Photos, the company said.

Immersive view coming to Maps

With immersive view, users can envision every segment of the route, whether they are driving, walking or cycling.

“Immersive view uses computer vision and AI to fuse billions of street view and aerial images together to create a rich, digital model of the world,” said Miriam Daniel, vice president of Google Maps experiences.

Users will visualise a multi-dimensional experience that lets them preview bike lanes, sidewalks, intersections and parking along the journey.

With the time slider, they will see air quality information and how the route looks as the weather changes throughout the day, Ms Daniel said.

The company will be introducing immersive view for routes in the coming months in Amsterdam, Berlin, Dublin, Florence, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Paris, Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, Tokyo and Venice.

Turning ideas into music

In January, Google announced MusicLM, a model capable of generating music from text descriptions.

From Wednesday, users can sign up to try the feature in AI Test Kitchen on the web, Android or iOS.

Users will type a prompt and MusicLM will produce two variants of the song. Users can select the best one that will be further improved.

Launched last year, AI Test Kitchen helps users to learn, experience, and give feedback on emerging AI technology.

WhatsApp coming to Wear OS

Google said many new features, apps and updates are coming to Wear OS — the company’s operating system designed for smartwatches and other wearables.

When WhatsApp launches its first smartwatch app in the coming weeks, users will be able to securely start a new conversation, reply to messages by voice and answer calls from their Wear OS watch, without taking out their phone.

Thanks to new controls in the Google Home app, users will be able to check who rang their doorbell right in their notifications and also remotely unlock your door.

“Later this year, you will be able to access two Google workspace favourites, Gmail and Google calendar [on Wear OS],” the company said.

Making AI more helpful for everyone

Google has 15 products that each serve more than half a billion people and businesses, the company said. And six of those products serve more than 2 billion users each.

“This gives us so many opportunities to deliver on our mission — to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful,” said Sundar Pichai, the company’s chief executive.

“It's a timeless mission that feels more relevant with each passing year. And looking ahead, making AI helpful for everyone is the most profound way we’ll advance our mission.”

Google’s first foldable phone

Google entered the foldable smartphones market with the launch of its latest device, the Pixel Fold.

Priced at $1,799, the phone is available to order and shipping to customers will start next month, the company said.

The phone will be initially available in Germany, Japan, the UK and the US, followed by the launch in other markets.

Bard is available in more than 180 markets

Google removed the wait-list for its latest generative AI tool Bard and introduced the technology in more than 180 countries and territories.

Besides English, Bard is now available in Japanese and Korean, and will soon support 40 languages, the company said.

Updated: May 11, 2023, 8:44 AM