Google is again putting artificial intelligence in the spotlight at its annual developers conference Tuesday.
The company opened its I/O event with literal bells and whistles at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California — showing off what it’s like to experiment with artificially intelligent synthesizers and inviting thousands of people to participate in an AI drawing game.
The demonstrations warmed up the crowd ahead of a keynote by CEO Sundar Pichai, who made announcements about the company’s latest AI-powered services.
The company is introducing an autocomplete feature in its Gmail email service that uses machine learning to offer suggested ways to finish sentences users start typing. For example, “I haven’t seen you” might be autocompleted to “I haven’t seen you in a while and I hope you’re doing well.” Users can accept the completion by hitting tab.
For its photos service, Google is starting a new service called “Suggested Actions.” If it recognizes a photo of someone who is a Google contact, it can suggest sending it to the person. It can also convert photos to PDFs and automatically add color to black-and-white photos or make part of a color photo black and white. The changes are coming in the next two months.
The company’s digital concierge, known only as the Google Assistant, is gaining new abilities to handle tasks such as making restaurant reservations without human hand-holding.
Google may also unveil updates to its Android mobile operating system, enable better AI-powered navigation suggestions in Google Maps, and push further into augmented reality technology, which overlays a view of the real world with digital images.
The search giant aims to make its assistant so useful that people can’t live without it — or the search results that drive its advertising business. But it also wants to play up the social benefits of AI, and plans to showcase how it’s being used to improve health care, preserve the environment and make scientific discoveries.
Pichai didn’t emphasize the privacy and data security concerns that have put companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google in the crosshairs of regulators. But he did say company “can’t just be wide eyed about the innovations technology creates.”
“We know the path ahead needs to be navigated carefully and deliberately,” he said. “Our core mission is to make information more useful, accessible and beneficial to all of society.”
The company is also expected to unveil a new app for news that combines elements of its Google Play Newsstand app and YouTube.
It’s too early in the year for Google to showcase any new hardware, which it tends to do ahead of the Christmas shopping season. Last week, however, it said its partner Lenovo will sell a $400 stand-alone virtual reality headset that doesn’t require inserting a smartphone. (Facebook last week announced a competing $199 device called the Oculus Go.)
Google also last week updated actions that its assistant can perform on smartwatches powered by its Wear OS software. For instance, it can tell you about your day if you’re wearing headphones instead of making you read your calendar.