Google I/O 2018: Duplex, AI, Android P and Smart Displays among the highlights from last night’s event

Google I/O, the internet company’s annual developer conference, kicked off last night.

 Each year Google uses I/O to showcase what the company is planning for the year – and sometimes years – ahead. Strangely, Google I/O always tends to just slip out in a rather unexpected manner. Because of its focus on developers, it doesn’t generate much of a buzz. It’s rarely ever an event that dishes out details around new Google hardware, but it does always give us a look at the new features Android and Chrome OS users can look forward to.

And this year’s event went pretty much as expected. Held at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California, Google used the show to highlight its efforts with AI and the future of Android. It also really needed something big to pull people into its connected services and shake up Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft’s tightening grip on the vast areas the company covers.

So, here’s some of the highlights from Google I/O 2018.

Google I/O 2018 how to watch online:

The Google I/O 2018 keynote took place on Tuesday 8 May at 10am PDT (6pm BST) followed by a Developer Keynote from 8.45pm until 9.45pm BST. If you missed it, you can catch the keynotes on the Google I/O YouTube channel – where all sessions appear once they’ve ended.

The full Google I/O 2018 schedule for the rest of the week is available here

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Google I/O 2018

Google I/O 2018: Android P

We know Google’s Android P, or Android 9.0, is coming later this year and Google I/O is, traditionally, where we get our first concrete details around Google’s latest mobile OS. Android 8 Oreo gave the OS a huge overhaul around notifications and the future of updates, and this time around it looks like the Android P update will overhaul Android’s Material Design language.

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The developer preview of Android P already hinted at more granular privacy settings, streamlining usability of menus, docks and screen settings and a design shift to allow manufacturers and developers to build Android around iPhone X-style screen notches. And now you can explore these changes yourself. The Android P beta is available to download now, but only on certain handsets – namely those from Nokia, Oppo, Essential, Vivo, OnePlus and Xiaomi. The full list is below: 

Google I/O 2018: Google Smart Displays

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We haven’t heard much about Google’s Echo Show rival – called Smart Displays – since CES but now we know they’re launching in July and will feature Google Assistant and YouTube. They build on its Google Home range by adding a screen and we believe it could give Amazon’s own product a run fot its money. 

Google I/O 2018: Google Duplex – an AI that mimics humans

Before last night’s event, Google announced it was rebranding its Google Research division as Google AI and used its I/O to showcase a number of AI initiatives this team has been working on. The most significant is an AI that will mimic being a human and can phone up and make reservations on your behalf, or answer your calls. Called Google Duplex, the company used the AI to ring small businesses and arrange things on behalf of its human user, including a restaurant reservation and a hair appointment. You can read more about Google Duplex here.

Although not everyone is enamoured by the idea: 

Google I/O 2018: Continued conversations

Elsewhere, Google unveiled its so-called “continued conversation” update for Google Assistant to make talking to the AI feel more natural. Rather than repeatedly having to say “Hey Google” or “OK Google”, with continued conversation, Google Assistant will let you ask it multiple questions within the same request, without having to repeat the trigger words. This is due to roll out to Google Home, Google Home Mini and Google Assistant on tablets and phones in the coming weeks. 

What’s more, there are now six more voices you can use to customise your Google Assistant, including John Legend. 

Google I/O 2018: Google Assistant is coming to Maps

Google Assistant is additionally coming to Google Maps this summer, on both iOS and Android. You’ll be able to use the AI to get more personalised directions and recommendations and the maps integration will leverage the camera, as well as computer vision technology, to identify landmarks as well as tell you what direction you are facing. This AI is also going to help make photos easier to edit.

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