This year saw the clash of two major tech companies led by Indians for grabbing the spotlight with their unique features, latest additions and in some cases, a completely rebranded focus. Microsoft Build 2018, which kicked off on 7the May, was still going on when Google launched its own annual Google I/O developers conference.
Technology giant Google just wrapped up the first day session of its annual developers conference, Google io 2018. The keynote address, although short, had some major announcements including the upgrades to its Assistant, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Chief Executive Officer of Google, Sundar Pichai started the conference by laying out the overall direction the company would be taking post the conference. Pichai spoke about the biggest controversies the company faced last year, namely the placement of cheese in the burger emoji and the floating foam in the beer emoji. Over 7000 people present there and millions watching online finally realised why Google is so serious about its emoticons.
Since their io last year, the company made a lot of progress in terms of AI and Machine Learning (ML.) This year’s platform concentrated on software over hardware as well as in showcasing the integration of AI and ML in the day to day life. Here are the highlights from the Google io 2018 developers conference.
Google AI – The company is empowering industries around the world by integrating AI into various technologies. These machine learning systems offer deeper analysis and newer insights as compared to regular technologies.
GBoard With Morse Code – In an attempt to make language and speaking easier and more accessible to people all around the world, Google introduced a new feature to its GBoard. The GBoard with Morse Code feature allows people with disability to use the application freely, thereby communicating easily.
Gmail – After completely redesigning the Google email system, Gmail, the tech giant added a new feature called Autocompose to the email system. Using ML, users will now get predictive phrases while typing an email and autocomplete sentences. From addresses to content, the ML system analyses the previous text to predict the next sentence.
Google Photos – Over 5 billion photos are viewed every day by users. Making the app more user friendly, Google added a new feature called App Actions to the photos app which suggests smart actions. The AI system can perform actions like sharing the images with people in the photos and editing images to make them look better with just one click. Adding to that, Google photos can also convert documents to PDF format.
Tensor Processing Units – Special purpose machine learning chips, the Tensor Processing Units, drive the AL and ML systems and product improvements in the company. These chips are now also available to Google’s Cloud partners as well. The company launched the next version of these units, TPU 3.0 during the conference which uses liquid cooling systems as they are 8x times more powerful.
Google Assistant – Trying to make the Google Assistant sound more human, the tech giant stitched together the voice of a real person code named Holly. In order to get the accents and language right for users all over the world, Google also brought in American singer John Legend. His voice as the Assistant will be released later this year. The Assistant is currently available in over 500 million devices. The Assistant will also be able to support 30 languages in 80 countries by the end of this year. Apart from that, users will not have to use the command ‘Hey Google’ or ‘OK Google’ every time they interact with the Assistant. Users can use the command, in the beginning, ask multiple questions within the same request.
Google Research – The tech firm is rebranding its Google Research division to Google AI with an increased focus on computer vision, natural language processing, and neural networks.
- Dashboard: The Dashboard shows users how often they have been using particular apps.
- App Timer: The App Timer allows users to set an amount of time to use a certain app and turns the icon grey once the time is up.
- Do Not Disturb Mode: Much like the current Do Not Disturb feature, this new application ensures users get no visual or sound alerts.
- Wind Down: The Wind Down feature helps users put down their phones, setting the whole screen to grayscale.
Suki: This Startup Wants To Transform Healthcare With Its Artificial Intelligence Tool
We live in a rapidly transforming era where humanity is making exponential leaps in technology. Thirty years ago, no one would have believed you could talk to an online voice assistant to create tasks and get things done. Ten years ago, no one would have believed humanity would land robots on Mars. Technology truly has improved the quality of living of every human who owns a smartphone and has access to an internet connection. Voice assistants are slowly replacing manual tasks and making lives easier and efficient. Siri, Alexa, Google Voice Assistant are just some of the widely used artificial intelligence based tools which are employed on a daily basis. Artificial intelligence, which is hailed as the technology of the future is now slowly making its way into much more complex domains like self driving vehicles, quantum computing and also health care.
Suki, a United States of America based startup founded by Punit Soni, developed their own voice assistant which runs on artificial intelligence to simplify healthcare for doctors and other healthcare professionals. In simple terms, Suki is akin to Siri for doctors. While you could order a pizza or schedule an appointment on Siri, doctors could modify, edit and add health records of their patients. Suki is a powerful tool to help doctors with documentation of health records which often take hours of their (doctors) time.
Suki currently focuses on documentation but has the potential to expand its usage to data queries, ordering, prescribing and billing. According to a white paper published by Suki, using its technology increases the time a doctor spends with a patient by 12% by cutting note taking time by 76%. The time which is saved also brings in a financial benefit of $30,000 more in revenue a year on average for doctors.
Suki raised a $ 20 million Series B round from Flare Capital Partners, First Round Capital, and Venrock, doubling its total funding to $ 40 million since its 2017 launch. Suki is also looking to expand its reach in India and has decided to establish Bangalore as their base of operations. India holds a lot of potential for Suki considering the amount of manual work which goes into almost any sector.
It would be interesting to watch how Suki and other similar AI based startups would transform healthcare across the world.
Leher Versus Clubhouse: Which Audio Listening Startup Would You Choose?
Clubhouse is a new type of social networking platform which is an audio only platform. This means every conversation takes place through audio where users speak to let their thoughts known. Users can create and host rooms where speakers will talk about a particular topic. Originating in the Silicon Valley, Clubhouse attracted some major names onto its platform like Elon Musk, Evan Williams, Reddit co founder Alexis Ohanian, former Y Combinator President Sam Altman, AngelList co founder Naval Ravikant, Ashton Kuthcer, Oprah Winfrey, Drake, Kevin Hart and many others are some of the influential personalities who are on Clubhouse. There is however a catch as Clubhouse is currently limited to iOS.
Leher is an Indian made alternative to Clubhouse and is a similar audio sharing and listening startup. Leher also has video support unlike Clubhouse and is also available for both Android and iOS. However, Leher does not have the biggest names in the world on its platform but it does have significant micro influencers and is growing at a rapid pace. Within 180 days of its beta version launch, the company claimed to have its users spend about 44 minutes every day and 250,000 minutes per month for live video sessions.
We at Startup Stories are curious to see which among Leher or Clubhouse would our readers choose to take part in a virtual discussion. Please let us know your answer in the poll below.
Facebook Launches BARS For Creating Raps To Counter TikTok’s Growing Popularity
Facebook is leaving no stone unturned to tackle the surging popularity of the Chinese video making app TikTok. As part of its redoubled efforts Facebook is launching a new app named BARS which could be used to create and share raps. The core idea behind the app is rappers could focus on creating content without having to worry about investing heavily in production and equipment.
Facebook said, “Audio production tools can be complicated, expensive and difficult to use. With BARS, you can select one of our professionally-created beats, write lyrics and record yourself dropping bars (sic.)” The company also added, “BARS auto-suggests rhymes as you’re writing to keep your flow going. You can also jump into Challenge mode and freestyle with auto-suggested word cues. Choose from a variety of audio and visual filters to take your creations to the next level (sic.)”
The app is now available in the Apple App Store in the United States of America. The invites for using BARS would be sent out in batches beginning in the USA and then expanded worldwide.
This would be the second app which Facebook is launching to counter TikTok’s growing popularity. Instagram Reels was the latest offering from the photo sharing platform Instagram (owned by Facebook) and was launched as a replacement for the video sharing application TikTok. TikTok was enjoying an unrivalled popularity in India as it became a means to keep boredom at bay during the nationwide lockdown which was imposed in light of the COVID-19 virus. However, the Indian government announced that it would ban 59 Chinese applications in which TikTok was one, along with WeChat, Helo, Cam Scanner and many others. This left a sudden void in video making applications, and Instagram realised the need for urgency to capitalize on this void. Therefore, Instagram immediately pushed their latest feature Instagram Reels which lets its users create 15 second videos with music from Instagram’s database. These videos look very similar to the ones made on TikTok and has gained a lot of popularity in India where Tik Tok continues to be banned.
ALSO READ: 4 Things To Know About Instagram Reels
Google also took advantage of the Indian Government’s ban of the viral application TikTok. Google introduced a new feature on YouTube called YouTube Shorts. The feature for all intents and purposes mimics the same features TikTok used to provide. The new feature mimics many of TikTok’s most popular features, allowing users to make and post 15 second videos with built in creative tools encouraging them to add licensed music and more.
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