Google I/O 2018: Tech Giant goes big on AI – what can it do for you?

Adam Muspratt

A range of new artificial intelligence (AI) based products dominated the annual Google I/O conference, demonstrating the company’s stance as the foremost AI enterprise

Google I/O Conference

Source: Shutterstock

On May 8, 2018, Google kicked off its 3-day annual conference in Mountain View, California with a range of ambitious announcements in AI that will improve the company’s products and services. 

Chief among the announcements was the rebranding of their research division, now called Google AI, reflecting the importance of artificial intelligence on the company’s future. 

“Everything from computer vision to healthcare research to AutoML, we have increasingly put emphasis on implementing machine learning techniques in nearly everything we do at Google, said Christian Howard, Editor-in-Chief, Google AI Communications” 

Here are a few announcements that have us excited.  

AI-driven emails that write themselves 

Google is updating Gmail with Smart Compose, a new AI-powered feature that can autocomplete sentences based on contextual cues. 

According to Google, the feature promises to intelligently discern what you will write by scanning the contents of an email for contextual details and predicting what you will write. Details such as dates, times, locations and more will be taken into account. 

Smart Compose works by offering suggestions as you type and you simply hit tab to use a suggestion that you like.  

Our view: Similar to Google Smart Reply, Smart Compose will help alleviate the tedium of writing repetitive emails by suggesting common phrases and contextual information. It works like a predictive text feature that is common in most text-based applications, but the key difference here is that Smart Compose will autocomplete entire sentences and for you. 

That said, Smart Compose won’t be a replacement for human intervention as it is not able to mimic your writing style or craft long-form emails.   Machine learning has been an integral part of communications for a while, so this seems like a natural progression of current offerings rather than a reinventing of the wheel. 

Source: Google

AI-driven assistants that will book your appointments 

We’ve previously looked at how smart assistants could soon be impacting businesses but Google has big plans to increase the utility of Google Assistant with Google Duplex, a new technology that is able to mimic human speech to complete common tasks over the phone. 

Unlike the robotic and monotone voices you typically hear when talking to a machine, Google Duplex mimics the patterns of human speech to give the interaction an eerily realistic element. Variables such as filler words, tone, inflection, and flow have been accounted for, ensuring that people won’t have to adjust their speech to talk to a robot. In fact, they won’t even know they’re talking to a robot. 

Our view: At the moment, Google Duplex is limited to specific tasks like booking restaurant appointments, so it won’t be carrying out general conversations just yet as Duplex can only operate in domains in which it has received extensive training. However, this technological milestone puts us one step further in the direction where machines can exhibit intelligent and dynamic behavior — the future of assistant AI is certainly compelling! 

Check out this recording of Duplex in action.

AI-driven news that weeds out falsified sources 

Say goodbye to Google Newsstand, Google is replacing the app with a revamped Google News that has AI at the core of its design. 

The new iteration of google news utilizes AI and machine learning technology to organize information as it hits the web in real time. 

In practice, Google News will give you a five-story briefing that is tailored to your browsing habits. You can go deeper into a story, and Google news will present you with a range of varied and high-quality sources, a full timeline of the events, and social media reactions. 

According to Google, Google News will give users a greater understanding of news events, especially through its ability to filter news stories by opinion, fact-checking, and analysis.

“We start with a briefing of five stories that Google News has organized for you — a mix of the most important headlines, local news and the latest developments on the topics you’re interested in, said Google News PM Trystan Upsill.”

Our view: Google hasn’t revealed how the algorithm will work, so there is no telling what is considered a “trusted” source. That said, we do appreciate Google’s commitment to quality journalism, and those who want to go without the personalization will have options to use Google News as a more traditional news platform.

If you’re interested in how artificial intelligence is revolutionizing tomorrow's business world, you may also enjoy this podcast with technology leadership expert Martin Rouen as he discusses the future of AI...