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Latest Developments from Google: Send Money via E-mail, Get Weather Report from Space etc.
On May 15-17th Google developers’ conference I/O 2013 took place. On contrary to expectations, there were no new announcements about the new Nexus 4 phone or the Nexus 7 tablet, or the new version of Android. Instead, the conference focused mainly on, well, as the name indicates, developers. Google introduced new developers’ tools to make better applications and Google main service developments: Google+, Maps, Search, Google Now etc. The cherry on the cake was Larry Page, Google co-founder, who ended the first conference day with an amazing speech.
Let’s review the most important and interesting topics that were covered.
The latest statistics about Google user numbers were brought in daylight:
Google+ complete makeover
If you’ve visited your Google+ account lately, you couldn’t miss the changes the social network has passed through. More precisely, Google+ got 41 new features in 3 major categories. All updates are not live yet, but will start rolling out during this week and the following week.
1. The Stream
The stream has been divided into 1-3 columns, depending on the screen size. New layout emphasizes visual images and highlights important posts spreading them over the entire wide of screen. The new design is compared with Pinterest, making the gap between two competitors Facebook and G+ even bigger. If you find the new layout disturbing, you can change back to old version easily.
Google added automated hastags (#) to posts meaning that Google will label posts with relevant keywords which makes it easier to discover more on the same topic. Welcome, Twitter!
2. Photo Tools
No one really relates to Google when it comes to photo editing. Google+ puts a great emphasize on visual content and now has new tools to make photo editing easier. You can edit, sort and do other great stuff with photo edit tools on Google+. Amazing features for photo fans!
In addition to photo editing the photo gallery view is updated and a new service Google+ Photos is added. The new feature allows you to back up unlimited photos at tablet resolution (2048 px) for free, or upload larger images at full resolution using your free 15 GB of Google Drive storage.
3. Hangouts App
New version of Hangouts has been developed further from Google+ combining various Google messaging channels like Google talk and Google+ Messenger. Hangouts app is available for iOS, Android, Chrome and Gmail. It synchronises between various platforms like Facebook Messenger. Voice commands are also in development. When Google adds SMS opportunity the perfect chat platform is on their command: text, video, calls and messaging in one app.
Google Mr. Search Amit Singhal announced on the conference that the era of search as we know it, is over. 3 most important developments from Search department:
1. Knowledge Graph
The Knowledge Graph database has been updated having more than 570 million objects, people and locations (Knowledge Graph means more informative search queries that include more information about the object and results are presented as answer cards). These objects come up on common searches.
2. Google Now
In addition, Google has made major updates on Google Now that was announced in the previous years I/O conference. Now answers your questions even without asking and by voice. As the Knowledge Graph continues to get smarter, the most useful and relevant results are given for your queries. When you add Now with Google Search trial version, it gets even smarter. You can search from your personal e-mails and calendar, even order an automated voice reminder about an upcoming event. The app has 6 new cards: reminders, music albums, TV shows, public transit, books and video games. Now works on different platforms – mobile and desktop.
3. OK Google
A new feature in search is a so called conversational search that allows you to ask questions by voice commands and get verbal answers. All you need to do is say “OK Google” and ask the question. Similar function is also used on Google Glass (“OK Glass”). When you say the command Google knows that you want to make a search query. You can integrate the feature with Google Now and determine for example a voice reminder. Amazing. Can’t help but remember the quote from professor Fransworth from Futurama: “My Internet browser heard us saying the word "Fry" and it found a movie about Philip J. Fry for us. It also opened my calendar to Friday and ordered me some French fries."
The function is available on some mobile devices and on its way to desktop search.
Google Maps has been updated on mobile and desktop version. New features include visual appearance, information quality and personalized approach. You can now view the map on full screen, it’s integrated with Google Earth and places related to you like home, work, restaurants you like etc. are emphasized. In addition, you can get Zagata score, Google Offers and 360 degree view of the place. Results are personalised highlighting locations that you might like or your friends have visited. The application also has real-time traffic monitoring that recommends an alternative route according to the traffic situation. You can also get driving, public transit, walking and biking directions. Also easy-to-compare bus and subway schedule with an overlay of necessary transfers on the map.
Google has made a step forward from a regular map and added a zoom-out view that reaches Space. It means that you can view the Earth with stars and clouds. And the picture is in real-time. You may have a question why should anyone need to view stars and clouds on real-time? But actually there’s a bit more than just a “cool function” making it possible to get a real-time weather report. Last time I checked people cared about the weather.
NB! New Map is available with an invitation.
Send money via e-mail
E-mail attachments have so long been limited with file transfers. Gmail has joined the forces with Google Wallet and rolled out a new function that makes possible to send money via e-mail. For money transfers there is a dollar sign in the e-mail composition window, quite next to the e-mail attachment icon, where you can attach money with your e-mail. The transaction fee is 2,9% and to cash out anyone receiving the money needs to set up a Google Wallet account. The feature will be available in the upcoming months to Gmail users aged 18+.
The updates reviewed in this article were announced on the first conference day that was ended by Larry Page’s speech. Page said that we haven't seen this rate of change in computing probably since the birth of computing and we’re only at one percent of what we can do. Google has taken its objective to speed up the technology development. Think how a self-driving car may change people lives.
During the 3 days conference a lot more was introduced and announced, like Google Play, new apps for Google Glass, developers tools etc. As the focus was on developers this time, we can assume that new gadgets are introduced in November session.
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