Technology

Our inputs on Google I/O 2019’s outputs : the social and the environment

2019’s Google I/O had even hardcore anti-Android fans drooling over the newest developments. Don’t worry, we give you a comprehensive recap — along with a bucket of salt

Google I/O, the three-day tell-all session during which we get a glimpse of the future, hear stories from the brightest minds and witness a little bit of humble-bragging, wrapped up on May 9. The buzz on the Internet is all about the system-wide Dark Mode on Android Q — please let it stand for Quinoa — and the allegedly bang-for-buck Pixel 3a and 3a XL as well as the revamped Assistant which responds to the pressurised hold on your smartphone.

But I/O’s whopping 175 sessions, all of which are available on YouTube, are an accessible way to understand the potential of technology and how you can be a part of it.

So let us explain how the tech giant’s vision of the future affects the environment and human interaction.

Our inputs on Google I/O 2019’s outputs : the social and the environment

Humanising the UX

Stick your hand in your pocket and a smartphone is bound to be there — just proving how mediated we are by them; they are a one-stop for entertainment and efficiency.

As per StatCounter, Android holds about 74.85% of the mobile operating system market share globally. Despite leading the market, only 11.26% of the Android devices run the previous OS, Android P. Building on the success of 2017’s Project Treble which led to increasing Android O’s market share to 35.21% (Android 8 and 8.1), this year Google announced Project Mainline. As per Fresher OS with Projects Treble and Mainline on Android Developers Blog, Google can offer OS updates faster ‘and for a longer period of time — without needing a full OTA update from your phone manufacturer’. I just hope my Treble-enabled Honor 8 Pro gets one last update so that I can toggle the dark side.

Remember when only adults had a phone? Mindy Brooks, UX Lead at Google, conducted Improve Digital Wellbeing: Google’s Approach and Tips for Developers at I/O 2019. She comments, “While parents see benefits in technology for their kid’s education, connection and security, they also have a lot of concerns.” Google conducted a research across 11 countries with 16,000 parents, teens and kids to understand what digital well-being means in the context of families.

Our inputs on Google I/O 2019’s outputs : the social and the environment

Keeping that in mind, Google has launched Family Link, an app which allows “parents to create and supervise Google Accounts for their kids, manage the content they see online and the amount of time spent on their devices.” Family Link will be available on all Android devices starting from Android Q. But it’s important to keep in mind, technology is only as good as its users. Hopefully, more parents will take time out to get familiar with Family Link. After all, banning your child’s favourite game from the country isn’t the solution.

Talking about giving control to the users, soon Android users will be able to make privacy choices from the ‘You’ tab in your Assistant settings just like in the Gmail app. Android Q allows access to location only when an app is running, and now we will be able to browse maps in incognito mode. This makes me wonder, will there be a system-wide incognito mode in future? But a quick glance at Google Privacy will make you realise who is in control of your data.

In order to identify any technology’s potential, you have to test it. Google continues to test the potential virtual Assistant. Going forward, users won’t need to say ‘Hey, Google’ each time. Google Assistant has not exactly been a hit. One of the Assistant features which was bragged about was “Once you’ve told the Assistant which contact ‘Mom’ is, you can ask, ‘Hey Google, what’s the weather like at my mom’s house this weekend?’ How about just call your mom?”

Our inputs on Google I/O 2019’s outputs : the social and the environment

Jokes aside, it seems this is one of those features where more workflows will be built in future. Google believes that Assistant has laid the foundation (of valuable user data) for voice-enabled technology and thus continues to invest heavily in it. The growth of Google Nest products shows Google Assistant could prove to be a catalyst in forging the UX of the future. The 2019 Assistant will allow you to send messages, attach images and even book car rentals without typing a word. Thus taking us closer to that Tony Stark work station even if it’s without all the bling and the Iron-Man suit.

Computing the environment

The conglomerate conjured up the nod-worthy phrase ‘Ambient Intelligence’ through their vice-president of engineering at Google, Yossi Matias, who’s also the global leader of the company’s Crisis Response. He spearheaded a talk on the positive implementation of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Yes, been there, done that. But what about AI For Social Good Initiative? Developer Carla Bromberg explains, “We aim to accelerate the application of Machine Learning to the biggest humanitarian and environmental issues.”

Our inputs on Google I/O 2019’s outputs : the social and the environment

Yossi recounts a pilot project done in India, in partnership with Central Water Commission, where his team had to use AI to predict the paths of floods and how they can efficiently and comprehensively warn communities. Said pilot project was done in the Patna region and the project’s first alert went out in early September after heavy rains lashed the region.

A Flood Prediction sandbox simulation, which follows a 48-hour course of a flood, shows one can observe the accuracy of a potential flood depicted through the program.

If a user is in a flood-affected area, they receive information on how affected they will be, whether they need to evacuate or prep for power outages. The goal is to have this be as effective as possible during the monsoon season and communicate seamlessly with on-ground rescue groups.

Holding them to their word

“Every single day, users watch over one billion hours of video on YouTube [and] navigate over one billion kilometres on Google Maps... with that scale comes a deep sense of responsibility.” - Sundar Pichai, CEO

Our inputs on Google I/O 2019’s outputs : the social and the environment

“Families live in a state of paradox with technology. On one hand it brings families together and on the other hand it drives them apart.” - Mindy Brooks, UX Lead

“[We’re] on the cusp of dramatically [changing] how we train autonomous vehicles. [Cars] have to make a complex set of decisions, like what you want to do to accomplish goals... It’s really thanks to deep learning algorithms that we can build an understanding of the world and have them operate in a real-world environment.” - Jeff Dean, Head of AI Division

“We generate maps and run up to hundreds of thousands of simulations in each location. With this information, we’ve created river flood forecasting models that can more accurately predict not only when and where a flood might occur, but the severity of the event as well.”- Yossi Matias, VP, Engineering

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 9:47:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/google-io-2019-social-and-environmental-developments/article27124080.ece

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