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Google's Shopping Actions Make It Easy to Buy Stuff from Search Results

Today, 1:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced its Shopping Actions program, a way for retailers to surface their products in search results and ensure those products are easy to purchase. Google is bringing Shopping Actions to Google Assistant and Google Search, which will include a universal shopping cart on mobile devices, desktops, and Google Home products. The program is for retailers and lets them surface their products in Google Assistant with voice shopping. For example, customers can say, "OK Google, buy Up & Up laundry detergent," and Google will find the item and then ask if it should added to the user's shopping cart. People can save their checkout and shipping credentials for use across retailers online. Google says the platform offers improved loyalty programs to retailers, which can take advantage of one-click reordering, personalized recommendations, and basket-building. Google has partnered with Target, Ulta, and 1-800 Flowers, which have been testing the service for some time. Google claims early tests have been positive with these initial partners. Businesses interested in participating in Shopping Actions can register with Google online. Mobile device users can expect to see Shopping Actions appear within Google Assistant and Google Search over time.

Google Play Instant Lets You Test-Drive Games Without Downloading Them

Today, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced several changes to the Google Play Store and Google Play Games apps that should entice Android device owners to check out the latest games. A new feature called Google Instant Play lets people tap and try games directly in the Google Play Store and Google Play Games app without first downloading the game. Google first introduced Instant Apps in the Play Store last year. Play Instant marks the tool's expansion to gaming. Google says it is starting with a few sample games today and will post more Instant Play games over the course of the year. Google is also making games more visible in order to appear to game developers. The Google Play Games app now includes an "Arcade" tab that lets people view game trailers or take advantage of new tags to browse through game categories. Last, the Google Play Games app will include YouTube videos related to users' favorite games, such as tutorials, to help them boost their skills and/or interest in the game. Google says these new features are hitting the Google Play Store and Google Play Games apps for most Android handsets.

Google Pay Lets People Use their Phone as Ticket On Las Vegas Monorail

Today, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its Google Pay app can now serve as a transit ticket on the Las Vegas monorail system. People visiting Las Vegas will be able to use Google Pay to purchase their monorail ticket online and add it to the app. The service includes prepaid, single-use, or other types of passes. Once purchased, people will be able to use their phone as the ticket at monorail stations. Google says the system is powered by NXP's MIFARE contactless system, which relies on NFC for authentication at gates. Travelers will need to hold their phone to a reader at the gate in order to enter the monorail. Las Vegas monorail passes in Google Pay include data such as recent transactions, trips, and the location of monorail stops. The most recent version of Google Pay is free to download from the Google Play Store. Google says support for more transit systems in more cities in on the way.

iPhone Owners Gain Access to Google Lens in Google Photos

Friday, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said iOS users can try a preview of Google Lens in the latest version of Google Photos (v3.15). Google Lens is an image-recognition function that relies on mobile cameras to perform searches. Using Google Lens, iPhone and iPad owners can aim their camera at just about anything and Google will instantly perform a search and suggest results. For example, users can snap a shot of an old car on the street and immediately gain information about that car and discover where it might be available for sale. Google Lens can recognize objects such as flowers, vehicles, gadgets, business cards, and more. The tool works within the Google Photos mobile app. Google Photos is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Google Lens has been widely available to Android devices since earlier this month.

Google Maps Transit Navigation Adds Wheelchair-Compatible Routes

Thursday, 4:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Google Maps public transit navigation with support for wheelchairs. The company asked its Local Guides to begin adding wheelchair/accessibility data to Maps last fall. This week's action builds on the data generated by that effort. Moving forward, people will be able to look up "wheelchair accessible" routes within Google Maps when using public transportation. Maps then displays a list of possible routes that weigh accessibility needs with data concerning elevators, lifts, ramp, and escalators. Google says accessibility-compatible routes are available in London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney. Support for wheelchair navigation in public transit will come to more major cities over the coming months.

Google Opens Pixel's Depth-Of-Field Effect Code to Researchers

Thursday, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 8:49 AM

Google this week made its semantic image segmentation feature, which is what powers the portrait effect on the Pixel smartphones, available to academia and researchers. Google uses semantic image segmentation to define the shape of objects within photos and then assign those objects a label, such as person, dog, or car. In short, it's what allows smartphones such as the Pixel to recognize the shape of a subject's head in a portrait, draw a line around it, and then take action with the other regions of the photo, such as blur the background. Google is open-sourcing the newest version of its semantic image segmentation code, DeepLab-v3+, as implemented in TensorFlow. It is built on top of a convolutional neural network (CNN) backbone architecture, which Google says is meant for server-side deployments. Google's immediate goal is not to bring Pixel-level portrait shooting to other smartphones. "We hope that publicly sharing our system with the community will make it easier for other groups in academia and industry to reproduce and further improve upon state-of-art systems, train models on new datasets, and envision new applications for this technology," said the company. Researchers and academics interested in the technology can find the necessary resources on GitHub.

Google Opens Maps and Resonance Audio to Developers

Wednesday, 2:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today gave developers more access to mapping and audio tools for creating games and other immersive experiences. First, Google brought its Google Maps API to the Unity gaming engine. The idea is to allow game developers to bring real-world map data into their augmented reality games. This way, games can mix and match reality with augmented content so developers can find the best real-world places for playing their games. Google says roads, parks, and buildings are now GameObjects in Unity, allowing developers to add their own style and textures to existing objects rather than force them to create new worlds from the ground up. Some 100 million buildings, landmarks, and other locales are available in 3D across more than 200 countries around the globe. Together with ARCore, Google believes its new Google Maps API will improve mobile gameplay. Second, Google released an open source version of its Resonance Audio project. Google released the spatial audio SDK last year. That SDK relies on data generated by the Resonance Audio project. Spatial audio creates a sense of presence within AR/VR environments, meaning players feel more like they are actually there. By opening Resonance Audio, Google hopes the community-driven approach will improve the tools available for developers when creating mobile or desktop experiences. Resonance Audio is now open source as a standalone library offered via GitHub through an Apache 2.0 license. Resonance Audio plugins for Unity, Unreal, FMOD, and Wwise are also open source, though they will be maintained by Google's partners. Developers can learn more about the new Maps API and open source Resonance Audio from Google's developer web sites.

Google Home Lets People Set Reminders That Ping Their Phone

Mar 14, 2018, 1:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has this week added several new features to Google Home that make the product more useful. First, people can now set reminders on their Google Home that are triggered by their phone's location. For example, at home, say, "Hey Google, set a reminder to pick up more coffee at the grocery store," and Google Assistant will remind you on your phone when you're actually at the grocery store. This is an expansion of a feature Google first announced last month. Second, routines are now more widely available. Routines string together a handful of actions that are triggered by a specific catch phrase. For example, people can ask Google to tell them about their day and get the news, weather, and traffic information they need first thing in the morning. Routines can now proactively turn off mobile devices' silent mode, and even interact with Assistant-powered appliances. Google is offering a half dozen routines to start, including morning, leaving home, bedtime, and so on. Users can easily customize the routines, and even ensure Google Assistant recognizes individual users for personalized routines. The new tools are free to use.

Google Maps Adds Mario Time for Navigation

Mar 9, 2018, 12:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Google Maps for Android and iOS with a fun feature: Mario. Once users update to the latest version of Maps, they'll be able to turn on Mario Time for navigation. When activated, Mario will appear in place of the navigation arrow while driving, walking, or commuting. Google says the bonus feature is rolling out starting today and will be available for about a week.

Google Assistant Lets Device Makers Create Custom Actions

Mar 9, 2018, 10:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced new Custom Device Actions for Google Assistant that will give devices native functionality specific to their hardware. Custom Device Actions build on the Assistant's existing Actions tool for issuing specific commands. Google says, for example, washing machines that include Google Assistant will let owners ask the machine to activate specific wash cycles simply by asking. Google is showcasing some of these new customized actions at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin this week, including a machine that sorts socks and a beer-ordering system. Google isn't stopping there. Assistant is gaining more functionality. For example, people will be able to subscribe to notifications via Actions. For example, Assistant can alert people to changes in stock prices in real time, or help them subscribe and then listen to Forbes' quote of the day. Moving forward, Google Assistant includes better media playback controls. Actions will support media playback on speakers and Android phones, meaning people will be able to pause or replay audio with simple voice requests. When using a phone, Actions will display a media player when listening to mediation sessions, relaxing sounds, or clips from TV shows. For example, Google says the new Daily Show Action lets people listen to the latest show and control playback via voice commands. Last, Assistant gains access to more brand-based Actions. Brands that have added the ability to interact via voice queries include American Idol, The Mindfulness App, and more. People will be able to launch and control these apps and/or experiences via Google Assistant on their home speaker or phone. Google says these new Actions for Google Assistant are rolling out over the next few days.

Google Allowing Artists to Contribute to their Own Search Results

Mar 8, 2018, 2:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is giving artists a bit more control over what appears when people search for them via Google. Moving forward, musicians can add content to their Knowledge Panel, which might include images, videos, GIFs, and text posted directly by the artist. Google says it will verify posts made by artists with a blue checkmark. Google says musicians who aren’t verified can do so easily in order to start posting. The feature is now live for all musicians who appear in Google worldwide.

Pixel's Motion Photos Can Now Be Exported as GIFs

Mar 8, 2018, 8:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Owners of the Google's Pixel handsets have a new way to share Motion Photos. A recent update to the Google Photos app adds the ability for Motion Photos to be exported as still images, videos, and now as GIFs. The GIFs are easy to share via social media apps and automatically loop once exported. The tool is available in the overflow menu of Google Photos. The GIF files are fairly large, larger than the original Motion Photo, and are saved at high resolution. The feature is already built into the Google Photos app on Pixel devices.

Nexus 6P, 5X Won't Get a Taste of Android P

Mar 8, 2018, 8:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's aging line of Nexus-branded smartphones are being left out of the Android P party. The company this week released Android P Developer Preview 1 to the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL handsets. Noticeably absent from the list? The 2015-era Nexus 6P and 5X. Google confirmed to Ars Technica that the 6P and 5X will not be updated to Android P. Each has received two years worth of system updates, which was the limit under the original terms of sale, though both phones will continue to receive security updates through November 2018. Google changed the terms with its Pixel devices, which will receive system and security updates for three years. The Pixel C tablet has also been left of the Android P update list. The Android P developer preview is truly for developers only. Google will launch the public beta program in the spring, with the full release to follow during the third quarter. Major new features of Android P include improved messaging notifications, support for displays cutouts, and more.

Google Releases First Preview of Android P with Improved Notifications and Notch Support

Mar 7, 2018, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made the first preview of Android P available to developers. The revised version of Android adds a number of user-facing features as well as tools for app writers. For example, Android P tackles notifications for messaging. Users will be able to see image previews in notifications, as well as better see who sent the message and select auto-responses. A new API for developers gives them more power over devices with dual rear- or front-facing cameras, and Android P adopts supports for the HDR VP9 Profile 2 and HEIF multimedia formats. Android P brings with it support for "display cutouts" similar to the notch on the iPhone X. This will let developers build apps that natively fit around notches or cutouts in device displays without losing information or features. Android P makes significant improvements to indoor tracking. It adopts the WiFi Round-Trip Time (RTT) protocol which helps narrow down users' location when inside by using WiFi-based triangulation. This will let apps add features such as indoor voice-guided navigation. Android P adopts a new version of the Neural Networks API for more AI-based operations; makes multiple improvements to the autofill framework; introduces a unified fingerprint authentication dialog and high-assurance user confirmation for better security; makes it easier for developers to add accessibility features to their apps; and ensures that Android P devices will be better able to decode various image types. In the Play Store, developers will find they can no longer use private APIs beginning in November 2018. All apps submitted to the Play Store will need to target Android 8 Oreo or higher. Android P Developer Preview 1 is available for download from Google's developer portal. Developers will need to manually flash the operating system to their phone from a computer. The over-the-air public beta is not available yet and won't be until later this spring. Android P is compatible with the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL handsets. Google expects to release the full version of Android P in the fall.

Google Duo Gains Video Message Function

Mar 7, 2018, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Google Duo video chatting application with a new video message feature. The idea is to allow video callers to leave a video message in the event the person they call can't pick up. Google says people can record video messages up to 30 seconds long. Once the video is finalized, it will be sent to the Duo app. Recipients of video messages can play the message back any time, and easily video call the sender back. Video messages will automatically disappear within 24 hours after they've been watched, though Google says people can save video messages to their phone if they wish. Video messages are rolling out on Android and iOS starting today and should reach all users worldwide within a few days.

Chrome 65 for Android Introduces Language Preferences

Mar 7, 2018, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is now rolling out Chrome 65 for Android devices through the Play Store. The upgraded browser introduces a handful of new tools. Primarily, users will be able to set language preferences for web content in the settings screen. Further, web surfers can turn on the simplified view prompt for all supported articles via the accessibility settings. Last, the downloads screen makes it easier too share and delete downloaded web sites. Chrome 65 is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Lens Rolling Out to All Android Users in Google Photos

Mar 6, 2018, 12:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said all Android users can try Google Lens via the latest version of Google Photos for Android. Google Lens is an image-recognition function that relies on mobile cameras to perform searches. Using Google Lens, Android owners can aim their camera at just about anything and Google will instantly perform a search and suggest results. For example, users can snap a shot of an old car on the street and immediately gain information about that car and discover where it might be available for sale. Google Lens can recognize objects such as flowers, vehicles, gadgets, business cards, and more. The tool works within the Google Photos mobile app. Google Photos is free to download from the Google Play Store. Google Lens has been available to Google's own Pixel and Nexus devices since last year.

Gboard for Android Now Supports Chinese and Korean

Mar 6, 2018, 9:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is adding 22 new languages to Gboard for Android, including Chinese (traditional and simplified) and Korean. Google says these were the top two language requests for Gboard, which now supports more than 300 languages, or 74% of the world's population. In addition to major additions such as Chinese and Korean, Google added Fulani, a language chiefly spoken in Guinea. Google says the new languages will reach all Gboard users worldwide over the next few days. Google's swiping keyboard is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Disney Parks Gain Google Street View

Mar 6, 2018, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's Street View team has added 11 Disney Parks to its repertoire of ground-level tourism. Curious would-be park goers can explore Walt Disney World, Epcot Center, Hollywood Studios and more all from the comfort of home. The tool allows people to see everything that's visible from public walkways and spaces. It does not offer ride-level experiences. Street View is available within Google Maps on desktop machines and through a separate application on mobile devices.

Google Makes Searching and Sharing Via iMessage Simpler

Mar 5, 2018, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today detailed several new features headed to the Google Search app on iOS devices. First and foremost, Google Search gains a new extension for iMessage that lets you perform Google searches from within iMessage and then easily share the results. New icons for "food" or "nearby" or others simplify the process of finding things to do and share. The tool applies to search results as well as GIFs and is available from the iMessage apps drawer. Second, Google has made it possible to discover related content when searching from any browser on iOS, including Safari. Google added a "Search Google" option to the Safari share menu to make this work with just a few taps. This means if users can find similar things and then share them with no need for more typing. Last, Google Search on the iPad (iOS 11) now supports drag-and-drop so iPad owners can move text, images, and links to/from the Google app. The new Google Search for iOS app is available to download from the iTunes App Store.

Google's Flutter Toolkit Lets Devs Create Android and iOS UIs

Feb 27, 2018, 11:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made the first beta release of Flutter available to developers. Flutter is a set of tools that can help developers create user interface designs for Android and iOS. Google says Flutter is quick and easy to use, and can be utilized by experienced and novice developers alike. It includes frameworks for windows, widgets, animations, and image libraries. It includes a GPU-accelerated renderer and native ARM code runtime. It supports accessibility features, right-to-left text, localization, and internationalization. On the iPhone X and iOS 11, it support inline video, additional image formats, and background processes. Google says developers who've been testing the alpha release since last year can switch to the beta channel via Android Studio. The end result, hopes Google, will be better looking and better functioning mobile apps that developers can create once for both Android and iOS.

YouTube Live-Streaming Gains Real-Time Captions

Feb 26, 2018, 11:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated YouTube with several new features centered on live-streaming. First, replays of live streams will now include a replay of the accompanying chat. Viewers will be able to see the chat window update as it did during the initial broadcast. Second, YouTube live-streaming will offer real-time captions. Google says live automatic captions are a quick way for creators to expand the reach of their video. Google's technology for creating captions — limited to English for now — has an error rate and latency approaching industry standards. Google says the error rate and latency will improve over time. Last, YouTubers can add location tags to live video streams, as well as enable SuperChats via IFTTT. Google says these changes are rolling out to YouTube over the next few weeks.

Google Working with Carriers and Phone Makers to Expand Assistant's Reach and Capabilities

Feb 23, 2018, 9:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said the Google Assistant is prepared to grow in a number of significant ways. First, the voice-activated tool is picking up some new languages. Google says Assistant will speak Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai on Android phones and iPhones in the next few months, with more languages on the way. Google expects Assistant to understand as many as 30 languages by the end of the year. Further, Google Assistant will be able to understand multiple languages at a time, meaning people can speak both English and German to their Assistant without changing settings. This feature will first be available between English, French, and German, with other languages to follow. Google also noted that it is working more directly from carriers and phone makers to improve Assistant. For example, LG, Sony, and Xiaomi are all prepared to rollout device-specific commands and features based on Google Assistant. Moreover, carriers Sprint, Koodo, Telus, and Vodafone are developing integrations with Assistant. Between the phone makers and carriers, Google expects Assistant to support individual device features, customer service queries, and more. Last, Google Assistant is adding two new tools to help people manage their day. Routines let people issue one command and set off a chain of actions. For example, say "Hey Google, I’m home" and the Assistant on Google Home or phone can turn on the lights, share any home reminders, play your favorite music, and more. Location-based reminders have now expanded to Google Home speakers. People can tell Assistant on their speaker to set reminders for specific locations, such as to get milk when at the store, and the alert will popup when appropriate. Google expects to bring even more features to Assistant throughout the year.

Google Says New Android Oreo Go and Android One Phones On Deck for MWC

Feb 22, 2018, 12:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today highlighted some forthcoming announcements that should have Android fans excited. To start, the company says a number of its handset partners are bringing new Android Oreo Go devices to market, and that the phones will be available for purchase soon. Android Oreo Go is a lightweight version of Android that can run on inexpensive devices with 1G of RAM or less. Google has built light versions of Gmail, YouTube, Search, and other apps so people with Android Go devices can still access information and entertainment on the go. Further, Google's hardware partners have new Android One phones in the works. Android One is a pure version of the platform that includes a streamlined user interface, regular security updates, major system upgrades, and solid performance. Google said it also has news regarding Google Assistant, Google Lens, and its RCS efforts for mobile messaging. Specific announcements are expected as soon as Sunday, February 25.

Google Pay Arrives to Fully Replace Android Pay and Google Wallet

Feb 20, 2018, 9:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released Google Pay, the revised payment application and service that replaces Android Pay. Google Pay encompasses most features of Google Wallet and Android Pay in a single app, allowing people to use Google Pay to make payments online and via mobile devices. Google Pay is already accepted on some apps and web sites, including Airbnb, Dice, Fandango, HungryHouse, and Instacart. Google expects Google Pay to become more widely available online quickly, as developers don't have to do much to alter their existing Google Wallet- and Android Pay-backed services for full Google Pay integration. Google Pay for Android features information about nearby stores, recent purchases, and access to rewards. A new tab helps users collect and organize their loyalty and membership cards. Google Pay supports mass transit payments in Kiev, London, and Portland, with more cities coming soon. The Google Wallet app is being rebranded to Google Pay Send and will soon allow people in the U.S. and U.K. to send/request money to/from their peers. Google Pay is available from the Google Play Store.

Google to Acquire IoT Firm Xivley

Feb 16, 2018, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google announced plans to acquire Xively, an internet-of-things provider, from LogMeIn. The company's technology will be added to Google's Cloud IoT Core unit, helping it with device management, messaging, and dashboard features. Google says its customers will reap the rewards of Xively's flexible, secure platform as they bring IoT products based on Clout IoT Core to market. Together with Google Cloud's data analytics and machine learning, Google expects the acquisition to benefit IoT device makers and service providers, as well as the customers of those companies. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. It is subject to regulatory approval.

Google Releases Lightweight Gmail Go for Low-End Android Phones

Feb 15, 2018, 4:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made a light and quick version of Gmail available to select handsets. Gmail Go is a slimmed-down version of Gmail that works better on devices with limited resources or spotty network connections. The app consumes less space on devices and requires less storage for email messages. It includes many of Gmail's signature features, including 15 GB of online storage, notifications, focused inbox, spam protection, and support for multiple accounts (IMAP/POP). Gmail Go is free to download from the Google Play Store, though Google hasn't specified which devices are able to use it. The majority fo Google's "Go" apps are reserved for entry-level devices in emerging markets. Gmail Go is not compatible with many of today's high-end phones.

Google Maps for iOS Gains One-Tap Access to Commute Info

Feb 15, 2018, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Google Maps for iOS devices with new real-time tools to make finding information on the go even quicker. iPhone owners can now swipe up when using Google Maps to open three tabs: explore, driving, and transit. These tabs contain information about nearby restaurants, real-time traffic conditions, and train/bus schedules. These features have been available to Google Maps for Android since last year. Google Maps for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Project Fi Adds More Roaming Coverage and Travel Alerts

Feb 15, 2018, 10:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's Project Fi today expanded the number of countries in which subscribers can roam. Project Fi was already available in 135 countries, and now subscribers can visit any of 170 countries and access their Project Fi service. Project Fi provides no-cost roaming, meaning customers are charged the same rates abroad as they are at home, including free texts, $0.20-per-minute calls, and $10-per-gigabyte data. Project Fi will now also alert subscribers to roaming services available on upcoming trips. The service will scan users' email for flights and/or itineraries and let them know if they are covered in the destination country. Project Fi is Google's MVNO service. It is available to Pixel, Nexus and other select phones.

Facebook's Messenger Kids App Lands On Android Devices

Feb 14, 2018, 2:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook's messaging application for children, announced late last year, is now available for Android devices via the Google Play Store. Messenger Kids is a mobile app that gives kids under the age of 13 the power to communicate via text and video with approved family members and friends. The app works on smartphones and tablets, but is controlled through the parent's Facebook account. Messenger Kids was first made available to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, and later Amazon devices. The app is free to download and use.

Google Says Developers Can Use AMP for Email to Boost Gmail Experience

Feb 13, 2018, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is porting its AMP technology to Gmail. Developers now have access to AMP for Email, a tool that allows them to create interactive, actionable email experiences that take place within Gmail itself, rather than secondary browser windows. For example, Google suggests AMP for Email would let people submit RSVPs to events, or fill out questionnaires from within individual messages. Moreover, AMP for Email brings a sense of dynamic change to emails, which can be updated with accurate or new information. Google has given Pinterest, Booking.com, and Doodle early access to AMP for Email and says people should be on the lookout for AMP experiences from these providers in their Gmail soon. Developers interested in checking out AMP for Email will need to register with Google for access. Google expects to fully roll out AMP in Email to Gmail later this year, and it said it hopes developers will bring AMP to Email for other email platforms as well.

Google's AMP Stories Let Web Publishers Tell Tap-Through Stories with Photos and Videos

Feb 13, 2018, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a preview of AMP stories, a new tool for creators to bring content to the mobile web in a new and engaging way. AMP stories were inspired by the likes of Snapchat and Instagram, which both offer people the ability to tell on-going, ephemeral stories that others swipe through. AMP stories will work in similar fashion, but on the mobile web. AMP stories are built in the backbone of Google's existing AMP project, which gives them speed and reach. Publishers post an AMP story on their web page and link to it to help with discovery. Google says publishers can take advantage of existing tools, such as pre-rendering pages, caching, and optimizing for video so the end user experience is smooth. Google created preset templates with standard UI controls that it believes will work for most AMP stories, at least for now. Some publishers, including CNN, Conde Nast, Hearst, Mashable, Meredith, Mic, Vox Media, and The Washington Post, were given early access to put AMP stories to the test. Google says AMP stories are available for everyone to try on their web sites, and the story format is free and open to use. Publishers can find what they need from Google's developer web site. For end users, Google says people can find AMP content by opening their mobile browser and searching for "g.co/ampstories" along with one of the content creators listed above.

Chrome 68 Will Mark All HTTP Sites As 'Not Secure'

Feb 9, 2018, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

In the interest of security, Google plans to call out web sites that don't adopt https. Later this year, version 68 of the Chrome web browser will proactively label web sites that don't make use of https encryption. The company has been casually marking such web sites, but will start to call them all out this summer. The goal is to encourage web developers to add https to their web sites, which will improve security for everyone. According to Google, over 68% of Chrome traffic on both Android and Windows is now protected, while over 78% of Chrome traffic on both Chrome OS and Mac is now protected. Fully 81 of the top 100 sites on the web use https by default. Google said it will adjust Chrome's user interface so users understand which sites are insecure and why they are insecure. Google says it has simplified its set-up guides to help web developers secure their sites with https.

Google Photos Debuts Create-Your-Own Themed Movies

Feb 7, 2018, 3:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today added the ability for people to craft their own themed movies in Google Photos. Google Photos' themed movies assemble photos of people, places, pets, or events and stitches them together — complete with soundtrack — into a shareable montage. Google Photos has been able to create these themed movies automatically through its Assistant since last year, but Photos now lets people put together their own movies. There are a number of pre-configured themes centered on kids, cats, dogs, selfies, and holidays such as Valentine's Day. The create-your-own themed movies are available online and from mobile devices. Google Photos continues to offer Photo Books for printing memories and shared libraries for commingling photos with friends and family. Google Photos is free to use online, and the mobile app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Nest Returns to Roost with Google's Hardware Team

Feb 7, 2018, 2:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alphabet today said it is putting its Nest and Google hardware teams together under a single roof. Since August 2015, Nest and Google have existed as separate entities under the Alphabet parent company. Moving forward, Google believes the two will work best together and thus the Nest team is being returned to Google. "The goal is to supercharge Nest’s mission: to create a more thoughtful home, one that takes care of the people inside it and the world around it," said Rick Osterloh, Google senior vice president of hardware, in a blog post. "By working together, we’ll continue to combine hardware, software and services to create a home that’s safer, friendlier to the environment, smarter and even helps you save money — built with Google’s artificial intelligence and the Assistant at the core." Google says Nest has doubled the size of its hardware portfolio over the last year, while Google has sold tens of millions of Google Home products. Pairing Nest's smart home products with Google's AI-based personal assistant is a sound business plan. Nest CEO Marwan Fawaz will report to Osterloh.

Google Adds a Dash of Augmented Reality to Motion Stills App

Feb 6, 2018, 4:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Motion Stills application for Android devices with augmented reality stickers. The feature lets Motion Stills users place virtual 3D objects in their viewfinders when filming videos and/or GIFs. People need only touch a spot in the viewfinder and Motion Stills will stick a 3D object in that spot, adding it to the scene. Google says it uses the device's internal accelerometer and gyroscope, along with the tracked ground plane, to align objects and allow them to move. Google is able to do this regardless of the device's orientation without calibration and keep things parallel to the ground. Recorded GIFs and videos with stickers can be shared via most social networks. Motion Stills for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Essential Says PH-1 Gaining February Security Patch

Feb 6, 2018, 2:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products today said it is rolling out a system update to the PH-1 smartphone that includes the February 2018 security patch from Google. Essential pushes updates to the PH-1 regularly and has recently made improvements to the camera. The security update should reach all devices over the next few days.

Google Turning On Pixel Visual Core in All Pixel 2 Handsets

Feb 5, 2018, 12:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is fully activating the Pixel Visual Core co-processor in its newer Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones. The Pixel Visual Core allows the Pixel 2 devices to make use of advanced machine learning to improve HDR+ photography. The primary benefit is that third-party apps will be able to take advantage of Google's imaging technology to boost results. As such, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat are among the first to tap into the Pixel Visual Core. People who use the cameras within these applications should see better performance, particularly with respect to balanced exposure in high-contrast environments. In addition to HDR+, the Pixel Visual Core also runs RAISR for more detail in zoomed shots, and ensures there's zero shutter lag so the phone captures pictures the instant users press the button. Third-party app developers are encouraged to put Google's new API to use in order to fully take advantage of the Pixel Visual Core in their apps. Google says the Pixel Visual Core will be enabled along with the February security patch. The update should hit the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in the next few days. Last, Google says it is bringing more augmented reality stickers to the Pixel camera app. People will be able to dress up photos and videos with winter sports-themed stickers, such as ice skaters, hockey players, and skiers. The new AR stickers will arrive later this week.

Google's YouTube TV Apps Reach Apple TV and Roku Devices

Feb 2, 2018, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made its over-the-top streaming video service, YouTube TV, easier to access from television sets thanks to dedicated set-top-box applications. Owners of the Apple TV product and select Roku streaming devices will find the new YouTube TV app and service available directly from their TV box. YouTube TV launched during the second quarter of 2017 and only supported television sets via casting from mobile devices. Now, subscribers will be able to bypass their mobile device and use the service more easily. YouTube TV is available in more than 100 markets around the country and offers live TV and unlimited online DVR access. Content is limited to about 50 channels, though several premium add-ons, such as HBO, are available for an extra monthly fee.

Google Assistant for Home Products Works with More Media

Feb 1, 2018, 1:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its Google Assistant even more powerful with a handful of new functions. First, the Assistant for Google Home speakers can now easily set personalized alarms. People can specify which song, artist, playlist, or radio station plays at the appointed time, rather than a traditional alarm. Google Home also adds tools for managing video content. People can ask Google for information regarding what channel their favorite show plays on, set reminders to watch that show, and use voice casting to tune in at the right time on YouTube TV. Google worked with Netflix to improve its voice-based integration with the popular video service. Google Assistant can take advantage of voice matching to ensure Netflix opens the proper user profile. For example, one person in a household can say “Hey Google, play Stranger Things on Netflix" and it will recognize the voice and open the appropriate Netflix profile. Users will have to train Assistant on their Google Home products to recognize the difference voices. Last, Google Assistant now gives Google Play Music subscribers access to their entire uploaded library. People can easily request to hear all the music purchased from or uploaded to their Play Music account. These features are available to the Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Google Home Max speakers.

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