Posts tagged with "google"

“Laughing and Crying My Way Through the New Google Photos”

My first watch of this video hit me emotionally in a way that’s hard to articulate. The film itself is a new kind of uncanny valley for digital artifacts: Assistant and its algorithms combined these clips in a way that no reasonable person would attempt. Ever. The result is surreal, random, creepy, sad, and oddly funny. It had to be a coincidence of timing that I had only just returned from visiting Grumpy on his deathbed. But partly because of that timing, this video present came at a moment when I was primed to appreciate it. Maybe it won’t be long before services try (and fail) to do this sort of thing on purpose, offering us narratives that highlight timely memories, or videos designed to fill anticipated emotional needs. My photos are still uploading.

Ryan Gantz has shared a personal story about photos he took at family events and how Google Photos put them all together automatically. The result is indeed funny and weird at the same time, but Ryan ended up appreciating it anyway.

There have been some interesting discussions about privacy and the value of Google Photos over the past week. So far, I agree completely with Manton Reece:

My family photos are the most important files I have on my computer, and I very rarely share any photos of my kids publicly. But ironically I’m willing to overlook some of the privacy concerns around this exactly because the photos are so valuable to me. I want multiple copies in the cloud, and I want the power of search that Google has built.

“Kind of creepy but I appreciate it” seems to be a common theme around Google Photos.


“Google Photos Is Gmail for Your Images”

The information gleaned from analyzing these photos does not travel outside of this product — not today. But if I thought we could return immense value to the users based on this data I’m sure we would consider doing that. For instance, if it were possible for Google Photos to figure out that I have a Tesla, and Tesla wanted to alert me to a recall, that would be a service that we would consider offering, with appropriate controls and disclosure to the user. Google Now is a great example. When I’m late for a flight and I get a Google Now notification that my flight has been delayed I can chill out and take an extra hour, breathe deep.

Steven Levy interviewed Google's Bradley Horowitz about Google Photos. The article includes some fascinating details on how the technology behind it could be applied in the future. (Ads aren't part of the plan – for now. It's easy to imagine how they could be.)

I'm currently uploading years of photos to Google's cloud because I'm interested in their search technology. I ran some initial tests on a first batch of photos, and machine learning was indeed impressive: the service organized photos by locations and people, but more importantly it let me search for common keywords like “fireworks”, “beach”, and “pets”. This, however, could also have negative repercussions, as Casey Newton noted in his story on Google Photos:

Google’s face detection is so powerful that I’m glad you have the option to disable it. It created an amazingly comprehensive photo album of my ex-boyfriend, and instantly reliving every holiday and road trip together just by tapping his face overwhelmed me. It’s magic, yes, but it can catch you off guard. (And it’s not perfect: a colleague who tried the service discovered that Google thought his wife was at least four different people.)

Finding photos and rediscovering memories is just as important – if not more important – than managing them. I believe that machine learning and deep neural networks have a huge potential to help us organize and retrieve information we'd forget otherwise, and Google is well positioned to tackle this. If anything, Google Photos makes for a good additional backup option after iCloud Photo Library.


Google Inbox Now Open to Everyone

In my review of Readdle's Spark email app earlier today, I mentioned how I've been using Inbox for the past few months.

Since moving back to Gmail late last year, I've been using Inbox, Google's alternative take on Gmail that wants to make email smarter and less intrusive. Inbox is fast, has push notifications, supports filters, and is trying interesting things with location snooze and inline previews of attachments and YouTube links. These features are exclusive to Inbox and the Google ecosystem, but at least they work everywhere because Inbox is available on iOS and the web.


The idea of automatic email sorting is a solid one: we are inundated with a constant stream of messages on a daily basis, and yet most email clients tend to treat all messages equally, with the same notification settings and without any distinction for different kinds of email content they should be able to understand. Inbox is reimagining the entire system by applying Google's smarts and user controls to messages and bundles, with laudable results. In the months I've spent using Inbox, I've come to depend on the automatic sorting in Updates and Low-Priority, which separates the wheat from the chaff and lets me see important messages at a glance. I can even set separate notification options for each bundle, which is a nifty way of dealing with incoming messages.

Inbox is Google's alternative take on Gmail, and it does several interesting things. Besides automatic grouping in bundles, for instance, it allows you to create your own custom bundles that work like filters: they can be assigned a ton of different parameters (multiple from addresses, subject matches, keyword exclusion, etc.) and you can define whether messages that match a bundle should skip the inbox, be bundled in the inbox and with which frequency, and if you want notifications for those as well. Inbox also has location reminders, the ability to preview attachments without opening a message (great for taking a look at YouTube videos and images right away), and integration with Google Now. Inbox works on iPhone, iPad, and the web, but unfortunately doesn't have a unified inbox, only works with Gmail, and doesn't support iOS extensions at all.

Inbox was opened up to all users yesterday, including Google Apps customers (which I tried during the initial rollout). If you use Gmail and don't have too many accounts, I recommend you check it out. Google's algorithms can be amazing if you're willing to let them scan your inbox all the time (the new Trips bundle is impressive), and, overall Inbox is simply refreshing when compared to the traditional Gmail app.


Google Bringing App Indexing to iOS

From the Google blog:

We’ve been helping users discover relevant content from Android apps in Google search results for a while now. Starting today, we’re bringing App Indexing to iOS apps as well. This means users on both Android and iOS will be able to open mobile app content straight from Google Search.

App Indexing is Google's effort to bridge the gap between mobile search results (where they make money) and native apps (where they don't make money – unless the developer uses Google ads) by deep-linking web content to specific sections in apps. The technology has been available on Android for a while, and it's rolling out with a “limited released” to initial partners on iOS in the coming apps.

While I doubt that Google will ever be able to implement the install-continue experience with Google Play and search results found on Android, App Indexing on iOS is interesting. I wonder if the company will show demos of this at the I/O keynote tomorrow.


No Ecosystem Is an Island: Google, Microsoft, Facebook & Adobe’s iOS Apps

Apple doesn't make a single Android or Windows Phone app, and makes barely anything for Windows. But Apple's reluctance to develop on other platforms hasn't stopped Google and Microsoft from bringing their own apps across to iOS. That shouldn't be any surprise at all, given the different business strategies the three take. But what might be surprising is the extent to which Google and Microsoft have committed to bringing apps to iPhone and iPad users.

You are no doubt aware of the big apps from Microsoft (Word, Outlook and Minecraft) and Google (Gmail, Maps, Calendar), but the reality is that these two companies alone have over 150 apps available on the iOS App Store today. For good measure, I've also taken a look at the iOS development efforts from Adobe and Facebook, which are also significant.

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Google Acquires Timeful

Interesting acquisition from Google: Timeful was an iPhone app that combined events, todos, and 'habits' in a single calendar UI that could suggest the best time to schedule everything according to your patterns, location, and available times.

Here's how TechCrunch described Timeful last year:

From the user’s perspective, Timeful works like this: You link the app to any of your existing calendar apps, such as iCal, Microsoft Exchange, or Google Calendar. You then tell the app additional things you need to and would like to do, providing concrete things like “buy milk” and more fuzzy things like “exercise” or “cook dinner more often.” You also select a level of aggressiveness that you’d like Timeful to have when suggesting times and activities, from laid-back, to very ambitious. Timeful then provides you with a customized calendar that incorporates all of the things you need to do and want to do at the times that would be best for you to actually make sure they get done.

I remember trying Timeful when it came out and thinking that I didn't want to put all my events and reminders in a standalone utility for iPhone with no iPad or web counterparts.

Timeful seems to make more sense as an addition to Calendar and Inbox, the company's alternative take on email that features location and time-based reminders. Google could use Timeful's intelligence to predict when a user is most likely to tackle todos or suggest the best times to schedule a new event or meeting. According to a post on the Gmail blog, it sounds like Timeful tech will indeed be rolled out across several Google properties:

We’re excited about all the ways Timeful’s technology can be applied across products like Inbox, Calendar and beyond, so we can do more of the work for you and let you focus on being creative, having fun and spending time with the people you care about.

In the meantime, Timeful will be kept on the App Store, but it'll no longer receive new features as “the team's attention will be on new projects at Google”.


‘What Does Google Need on Mobile?’

Fascinating take on Google by Benedict Evans from earlier this week:

Apps cut off Google’s reach, both to get data into its systems, since apps are opaque, and to surface data out to internet users, since any search in Yelp’s specialist app is a search that wasn’t on Google, and such apps are stronger on mobile than on the desktop. Apps reduce Google’s reach in both senses. This of course is why (like Facebook) it has been pursuing deep links, and is probably also one reason why it is keeping Chrome OS warm as a standby mobile platform. But it also means that Google has conflicting incentives - as a provider of services, should it try always to make things as part of the web, or embrace the new experiences that apps and everything else happening on smartphones can provide? What would the web search team say if Hangouts became a development platform, for example?

Just yesterday, Google announced a new search initiative on Android: now, users will be able to find content inside apps they don't have installed (powered by App Indexing), start downloading an app within search, and continue their activity directly into the just-downloaded app.

As explained by Frederic Lardinois at TechCrunch:

Here is what all of this will look like in practice: say you are searching for a recipe and Google’s algorithms determine that there is an app that has just the right recipe for black forest cake for you. You will now see a carousel with relevant apps and a prominent install button right next to them. From there, you’re taken to the Google Play store to install the app. Once the app is installed, you simply click “continue” and the app will open with the content you were looking for.


Google Updates YouTube for iOS with New Music Section

Following the announcement of YouTube Music Key earlier today, Google updated its official YouTube app for iOS with a new Music tab in preparation for the service's beta rollout next week.

The new tab, available at the top of the main interface, doesn't bring Music Key functionalities, but instead showcases a selection of music based on popularity and your watching history on YouTube. In this section, YouTube is offering mixes (non-stop playlists based on songs or artists, like radio stations), recommended videos, a history section for music videos you've played before, plus trending and popular videos.

The selections in the new Music area of YouTube are solid when it comes to personal history and recommendations, but they feel a little impersonal as they lack any sort of editorial pick or curated content. The Music tab is very much user-centric at this point: music videos are either recommended based on your history and likes on YouTube or they're already part of your subscriptions and playlists. The execution is nice thanks to large previews, a clean interface, and the ability to quickly start playing a mix or a playlist, but, right now, YouTube's Music tab is obviously not meant to replace the home page of services like Beats Music or Spotify.

You can get the updated YouTube app with the new Music section on the App Store.