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Google unleashes a flurry of new Android and Google Home features

Android 2 billion

Google has hosted its I/O 2017 conference this week, and the internet giant certainly has a lot to shout about.

Starting with the Android OS, the team has launched a lightweight version of the software, Android Go, which is designed for the entry-level segment in emerging markets. The OS itself is targeting low-cost devices, with the team claiming it has optimized the platform to run smoothly on devices with as little as 512MB of RAM.

Although the BRICs countries have been making a surge in the digital economy in recent years, the phones on the market there are still too powerful for the Android Go idea. In places like India, a smartphone might give you 2GB of RAM and 16GB storage, but Go can be used on smaller specifications, which might suggest the team is targeting lesser developed nations across Asia and Africa.

Elsewhere in the Google world, the smart home team has been busy also. The first new feature is built around push-notifications, allowing the devices to become more proactive during interactions with the user. It’s not really that intrusive either. If the device has something to tell you a couple of lights will flash up on top and the user can choose to ask Google what it wants or not. Google has stated it will only bring up what it deems useful information for the moment, though it only a stone’s throw away from advertising.

Amazon has also dropped the notifications bomb recently, though now it is a straight up race to see who can capture the revenues. Both have different experiences of working with third parties to push products into the lives of consumers, though this is certainly a strategy which could lead to vast fortunes in the smart home space. Considering the money brands spend on TV advertising, this could be a less intrusive way to engage the consumer in the living room.

Another feature which has been introduced is free calling from Google Home. While it might be an announcement which is in the wake of the Alexa calling feature, it does seem to have gone one step further. With the Google device you can call any phone number, whereas the Alexa feature you can only call other Echo’s or phone which have the Alexa app installed. It essentially leapfrogged Amazon here.

One final feature which could prove to be very useful is the voice recognition software which has been worked in. If you were to say ‘call mum please’, it would call your mum, however if you flatmate was to say ‘call mum please’, it would call their mum.

The voice recognition feature is one which could be considered a genuine breakthrough and significant differentiator for Google in the battle for the living room. With the introduction of these three add-ons, as well as a host of other more minor ones, it would be fair to assume Google has taken the lead in the smart home devices race.

The final update from the conference was focused around Google Lens, and the internet giants search to capture advertising revenues through visual search.

Either through using the camera interface in Google Assistant, or viewing the photos in a Google photo album afterwards, users will be treating to a horde of information about the photo. Whether it is the coffee shop on the corner, or the tourist attraction in the background, the AI backbone of Google Assistant will be able to draw information about the individual aspects of the photo for the user.

It’s essentially another way for Google to sell advertising to a number of different clients, and the better the AI team get, the more ways it will be able to pump information into the screen.

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