Google Assistant Adds 6 New Voices, Supports Smart Displays, Will Expand to 80 Countries

Hey-Google

We’ve already seen announcements about Android P and Android Things 1.0 for Google I/O 2018, but the company also took the opportunity to provide an update to the new features coming to Google Assistant. Some of the improvements are specifically related to the audio features (voice assistant): Google Assistant is now naturally conversational so it can understand more complex requests such as asking the weather using expressions like “Will it be cats and dogs today?”. 6 new voices are now available, and John Legend’s voice is coming later this year. More voices should be supported in the future, thanks to improvements in AI and WaveNet technology from DeepMind that eliminates the needs for recording hundreds of hours of audio in a recording studio, and enabled adding new voices in just a few weeks. Continued Conversation – as its name implies – will allow Assitant and you to have a “natural conversation” without having to say “OK Google” for each request. …

Android P Beta Released. What’s New?

Last March, Google released Android P developer preview with new features such as indoor positioning with WiFi RTT, support for display notch, HDR VP9, HEIF image compression, a new API to access two or more camera simultaneously and so on. Google I/O 2018 has just gotten started, and the company announced the release of Android P beta with yet more features,  and support for phones from more manufacturers. Some of the most notable features include: Adaptive Battery uses machine learning to prioritize access to system resources for a user’s most commonly run apps, and places each app in four “buckets” ranked from “active” to “rare”. Apps will change buckets over time, and apps not in the “active” bucket will have restrictions for jobs, alarms, network and high-priority Firebase Cloud Messages. App Actions will also use machine learning to show actions for specific apps depending on context. For example highlighting “Taylor Swift” text will not only show  a contextual menu with Copy …

Lenovo Introduces Mirage Solo Daydream Standalone Virtual Reality Headset & Mirage Camera for VR180 Video Recording

Standalone / All-in-One Android virtual reality headsets have been around for a couple of years, mostly from Chinese vendors.  But the number and quality of VR apps available were rather low at the time, and those VR headsets were mostly useful to watch 360°  & VR videos. This may explain why larger companies had not launched any standalone headset so far, but this week everything changed, as Facebook started selling their Oculus Go virtual reality headset , and Google & Lenovo have just jointly announced the availability of Mirage Solo, the first standalone VR headset compatible with Google Daydream. Lenovo Mirage Solo specifications: SoC- Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR processor System Memory – 4 GB RAM Storage –  64 GB UFS flash,  microSD Card slot up to 256 GB Display – 5.5″  QHD (2560 x 1440) LCD display @ 75 Hz Lenses – 2 x Fresnel-Aspheric 110° FOV Camera – Dual 6-Degrees-of-Freedom Tracking Cameras Controls – 3 DOF Wireless Daydream Motion …

Google Has Made it Harder to Load Google Apps on Uncertified Devices

Cheap TV boxes or development boards that can run Android, are not normally certified by Google, but you can still use Google Apps like the Google Play Store either directly with the manufacturer pre-loading the packages on the device, or manually by installing the packages yourself. According to a report by XDA developers, Google has made it harder to load Gapps on uncertified devices starting from March 16th, and if you try to login on a new custom firmware you may get the message “Device is not certified by Google” when accessing a Google app. The change will apparently only affect newly built firmware , so older firmware should still be able to access Google Play store (TBC). We’ll have to see how it turns out. Google Play Services is said to check ro.build.fingerprint for the build date, but it seems too easy to  work around this, if that’s the only check they do. To check if your Android device …

Android Wear Becomes “Wear OS by Google”

Android Wear is an operating systems for wearables based on Android, but it may be confusing to (some) consumers, since an Android Wear watch may pair with an iPhone and an Android phone is not requires. Google actually reports one third of Android Wear watch users also own an iPhone, so the company has now decided to rename Android Wear to “Wear OS by Google“. Apart from the name change and new micro website, everything remains the same. Now if they could also change “Android TV” to “TV OS by Google” that would also prevent an other type of confusion among users…

Companies Address Concerns related to Speculative Execution Exploits: Meltdown and Spectre

Yesterday, news surfaced about a “bug” in Intel processors that could be fixed at the operating system level at the cost of a decrease in performance for some tasks, from a typical, and barely noticeable 5% hit, to a more consequent 30% hit for some specific tasks, and as we discussed yesterday I/O intensive tasks are the most impacted by the changes. While Intel (and Arm) are impacted, AMD claims not to be, and the issue was reported by major news outlets and likely impacting the stock price of the companies with Intel stock losing 3.39%, and AMD stock gaining 5.19%, so obviously every company felt the need to answer, starting with Intel’s response to security research findings: Recent reports that these exploits are caused by a “bug” or a “flaw” and are unique to Intel products are incorrect. Based on the analysis to date, many types of computing devices — with many different vendors’ processors and operating systems — …

Google Assistant SDK Now Supports Device Actions, More Languages (French, German, Japanese)

Back in May 2017, Google released the Assistant SDK that worked on Raspberry Pi 3, and other ARM boards, essentially transforming low cost development boards into Google Home equivalent. The SDK became more popular once Google’s AIY Voice Kit was launched since it offered an easy and inexpensive way to use it with Raspberry Pi 3 board. Since all you need was a Linux board with an Internet connection, a microphone, and speaker, I tried Google Assistant SDK on one of the cheapest platform available: Orange Pi Zero Set 6 Kit including Orange Pi Zero board, but also an expansion board with built-in microphone and audio output jack, and a cute little case. I added my own pair of speakers, micro SD card, and USB power supply, and after setting up the software, I was able ask question, and get answers with female voice using the demo app. At the time however, there was some limitations, as integration with home …

$45 AIY Vision Kit Adds Accelerated Computer Vision to Raspberry Pi Zero W Board

AIY Projects is an initiative launched by Google that aims to bring do-it yourself artificial intelligence to the maker community by providing affordable development kits to get started with the technology. The first project was AIY Projects Voice Kit, that basically transformed Raspberry Pi 3 board into a Google Home device by adding the necessary hardware to support Google Assistant SDK, and an enclosure. The company has now launched another maker kit with AIY Project Vision Kit that adds a HAT board powered by Intel/Movidius Myriad 2 VPU to Raspberry Pi Zero W, in order to accelerate image & objects recognition using TensorFlow’s machine learning models. The kit includes the following items: Vision Bonnet accessory board powered by Myriad 2 VPU (MA2450) 2x 11mm plastic standoffs 24mm RGB arcade button and nut 1x Privacy LED 1x LED bezel 1x 1/4/20 flanged nut Lens, lens washer, and lens magnet 50 mil ribbon cable Pi0 camera flat flex cable MIPI flat flex …