Google I/O 2017: Everything important that Google announced today

Tess Townsend

New AI-first tools for Assistant and Photos, new VR headsets and more.

At Google’s 2017 I/O keynote today, CEO Sundar Pichai introduced new products and shared more information about the company’s “AI first” future. Here’s a running list of what happened that matters.

Google is rethinking “all” of its products for an AI-first world. That’s the high-level promise from Pichai, and the change Google must successfully navigate to continue its dominance. Examples: Google Search now ranks differently using machine learning, Google Maps Street View automatically recognizes signs, video calling uses machine learning for low-bandwidth situations, etc.

Google can now use your camera as an input device.Google announced a “Lens” feature for its Assistant service that will tell you information about what’s in front of your phone camera: What type of flower you’re looking at, info about the restaurant across the street, etc. This combines a bunch of tech buzzwords — AI, AR, machine learning, computer vision — into one feature, and highlights how Google’s massive collection of data about the world can be used together. It's also another example of how Google is trying to get ahead of the latest preference for photos versus text.

Google’s latest user numbers: There are now 2 billion active Android devices, 500 million active Google Photos users and 1.2 billion videos and photos uploaded to Google Photos every day. Users navigate more than 1 billion kilometers per day with Google Maps. Google Drive has 800 million users. And people watch 1 billion hours of YouTube videos a day.

Don’t like writing emails? Don’t have to. Gmail on Android and iOS is getting an automated-response feature called Smart Reply, which lets you choose up to three responses that are based on the received email. You can add more to a response after selecting it if you want, or you can just send the automated response as-is.

More Google in more places, in more languages. Google Assistant is rolling out to the iPhone — though it won’t (and can’t) replace Siri as the default assistant — and will be available in more languages like French and German.

Hands-free calling on Google Home. “Hey Google, call Mom” will cause the device to dial out with your personal number when it detects your voice. No setup required, according to today’s presentation. (Amazon launched calls for Alexa this week, too.) It’s the new landline phone.

Google Photos has a cure for laziness. Google’s photo service, which the company says has 500 million users, can now suggest what photos you should share — and with whom — with a feature called suggested share. It can also automatically share photos with an option called shared libraries. The big idea: Most photos just sit there on your phone. It’s better for you and your friends (and for Google!) if you share more of them.

Super Chat for YouTube. While watching a YouTube livestream, you can now pay to have your comment highlighted as a “super chat” message. This makes the message stand out — so the creator is more likely to see it in an endless stream of messages — and also generates some more cash for the YouTuber.

Google is working with partners to launch standalone VR headsets. That means everything for a VR experience will be built into the headset itself — no phone or PC required. The headsets, running Google’s Daydream platform and made by HTC and Lenovo, are slated to ship later this year.

Google for Jobs. Google is taking on LinkedIn with job listings in its main search product. If you search for “retail jobs,” for example, Google will know where you’re searching from and show jobs in your area.

Apps and transactions on Assistant. Developers can now build apps or “actions” that run on Google Assistant on Android and iOS. Already, developers have been able to build actions for Assistant on the Home device. Developers will also be able to build transaction features for Assistant, which will soon be available on phones with Assistant.

Android Go. Google is launching an initiative called Android Go to better tailor Android to low-connectivity devices. Starting with the release of Android O, the latest version Android not yet released publicly, devices with 1 gigabyte or less memory will receive versions of apps like YouTube and Chrome that use less memory. The software is also supposed to have features tailored for users who speak multiple languages.

Indoor mapping. Google is introducing something called visual positioning service, or VPS, that will allow you to map indoor locations using its Tango AR platform. An example of what VPS can do is tell a user the exact location of a product in a store.

Machine learning hardware for the cloud. Google introduced the second version of its Tensorflow Processing Unit, or TPU, called the Cloud TPU. That’s the hardware it uses for Tensorflow, its open-source machine learning software, which developers can use to build their own AI-powered tools and apps.

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