Here are all the new features announced for Android P

Your next Android phone will have these features
Ivan Mehta
by Ivan Mehta

Google today held their annual developer conference in Mountain View, California and they announced a bunch of stuff. Few of the most important announcements were centred around Android. The operating system will receive a bunch of updates in its next version currently called Android P. Here is a rundown of the top features. Some of the announcements were made when the first developer preview was announced.

  • Notch Support: There will be support for the devices with a physical notch. Smartphone makers would be able to define the size and shape of the notch. So no icons or part of the operating system would be drawn there.
  • Adaptive Battery: Google partnered up with Deepmind to implement AI to understand app usage patterns. Only the apps which the users use the most will run in the background and other apps will be idle. Google observed that 30% reduction in the app wake ups.
  • Gesture-based Navigation: After Apple announced its support for gesture-based navigation for iPhone X, Android has followed the suit. When the user swipes up from the home button the multitasking menu shows up. Another swipe or long swipe will directly take the user to the app drawer.  Note that manufacturers like OnePlus already have their own gesture implementations. Also, it shows five suggested apps (most used) on the bottom. The user can slide as well to see the recently used apps.

  • App Actions: These are shortcuts which will help you complete an action such as starting a specific workout or calling a specific person.

  • Slices: Slices are the part of the apps which surfaces when you're searching for an app. For instance, if you're searching for Uber, the option to call an Uber to home or work will appear in the search itself.

  • Wellbeing

    • Dashboard: Android P will give you a detailed dashboard to allow you to peek into your app usage. The idea is to use your phone less than usual.
    • App timer: Under project well being, Google will allow you to set timers on how much you can use an app in a day. Once that time is passed the icon of the app will be greyed out.
    • New Do not disturb mode: Earlier do not disturb mode kept the phone on silent but sometimes the notifications still popped out to wake the screen up. Now there will be no visual interruptions as well.
    • Wind down: This mode is for when you're ready to go to bed. It will switch on Do not disturb mode and turn the display to greyscale for your defined bedtime.

  • Indoor maps: Android P will support something called WiFi Round Trip Time (RTT) which will guide the users to access points. With this implementation, the location accuracy of the device will be 1 to 2 metres. That opens up the world to the plethora of applications such as in-mall experience, indoor maps of popular buildings, games and much more.

image4

  • Multi-Camera Support: Natively there would be more support for app developers to take advantage of multiple cameras. It would be easier for phone makers to execute effects such as zoom and bokeh. The new version even makes it easier to use OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) timestamps and display based flash functionality. It also supports external cameras too.
  • See photos, conversations and smart replies in messaging notifications: Google has worked on Android notifications very hard improving it every year. This year in the notifications tabs the user would be able to see conversations, previews of photos and even smart replies.

    • Additionally, Google has added optimised support for blocking certain kind of notifications (Notification channels) from an app.
  • Bluetooth Hearing Aid: The hearing aid support has been iPhones since the release of iOS 7. In fact, Apple has a list of supported devices as well.
  • Images will take less space: Just like the iPhones, Android phones will now support storing images in HEIF (High-Efficiency Image File) format. This will allow saving space by more than 80% on image storage as compared to JPEG.
  • Better video streaming: Android will natively support Google's own VP9 Profile HDR (High Dynamic Range) codec for videos.
  • Rotation lock: This feature will allow the users to lock the app in either portrait or landscape orientation mode. Earlier locking was allowed just in the portrait mode.

 

 

 

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Google made jaws drop to the ground during the I/O keynote address with its demo of the Duplex calling system, a new technology capable of carrying out natural conversations over the phone with the ultimate goal of being able to assist users with ‘real world tasks’. During the demo, CEO Sundar Pichai played a recording of Duplex scheduling a hair salon appointment in real time. This was followed by another demo of the system making reservations at a restaurant.

While AI assistants and bots are fast becoming an indispensable part of our ‘smart’ existence, what’s truly remarkable about Duplex is its ability to mimic human conversational tone and style in executing the assigned tasks. These bots are able to comprehend natural speech and use words fillers like ‘Ohh, I gotcha’ and ‘Umm’, add the raised pitch of a question mark to queries, and exchange pleasantries. None of the typical robot-like voice, awkward sentence formations and struggle to recognize simple commands and words that we normally associate with present-day smart assistants exist with the Duplex. It can engage in a conversation, adjusting to the flow of human on the other side of the line instead of expecting the human to adapt to capabilities of the system. The result? Seamless, conversational experience where a human and a bot follow the natural flow of dialogue, just the way two humans would.

duplex

Making Bots Talk Like Humans

The Duplex system has been developed by constraining neural networks to closed domains and then training it extensively to carry out conversations within the confines of such domains. Despite its AI prowess, Duplex cannot carry out general conversations outside these domains.

At the heart of this technology is Google’s vision to make conversations with machines comfortable and natural. Even so, training a machine learning AI system to conduct natural conversations is no mean feat. Generating natural sounding speech with the right intonations is a challenge in itself, add to that complexities of conversational language and natural behaviour, and getting a bot to talk like humans in real time and real-life scenarios almost sounds like an improbable proposition.

image-2018-05-08-at-2-26-01-pm-1

[audio mp3="//static.killerfeatures.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/5717BWTLRKCBB8JUDQ1QUA6HMC26WL238301173.mp3"][/audio]

After years of research, Google has finally found a way to do it. At the core of this system is a recurrent neural network (RNN) that has been built using TensorFlow Extended (TFX) and then trained on anonymised phone conversation data to tide over these myriad challenges. In its blog post explaining the technology that Duplex is built on, Google said, “The network uses the output of Google’s automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology, as well as features from the audio, the history of the conversation, the parameters of the conversation (e.g. the desired service for an appointment, or the current time of day) and more. We trained our understanding model separately for each task, but leveraged the shared corpus across tasks. Finally, we used hyperparameter optimization from TFX to further improve the model.”

Efficient and Natural

In spontaneous speech, people talk faster and less coherently. The Duplex system is not only trained to keep up with the pace of conversations but also pick out the right context from complex sentences. For instance, in the demo, where Duplex is making a reservation at a restaurant, the request is for a table for four on Wednesday at 7 pm, but the human on the other end of the line misunderstands it as table for 7. Duplex, however, does not get confused. Instead, it emphasises that the table is for four people, reservation is for 7 pm.

[audio mp3="//static.killerfeatures.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/KOK4HAMTAPH5Z96154F6GKUM74A3Z1576269077.mp3"][/audio]

Apart from its efficiency, another aspect that had people floored was Duplex’s ability to keep conversations natural. Google explains this has been achieved through a combination of “concatenative text to speech (TTS) engine and a synthesis TTS engine (using Tacotron and WaveNet) to control intonation depending on the circumstance.”

The minds behind this AI-powered system have paid extra attention to detail, including factors such as speech disfluencies – the use of uh’s and hmmm’s – and speech latency, and trained the system accordingly. For instant, when a person says ‘hello’, they expect an instant reply. To keep the latency low, Google has relied on faster, low-confidence models such as speech recognition or end-pointing. In certain cases when a low latency requirement is coupled with hesitant responses, the system bypasses the RNN altogether and relies on faster approximations to give a suitable reply without delay. On the other hand, developers have also understood low latency is not the way to go always. In some cases, for instance, when replying to complex sentences or queries, there needs to be some gap in between dialogues, to make the conversation feel natural. And the Duplex system has been trained to do just that. Just the way, a human would take time to process information passed on in a complex sentence and think of a suitable reply, the Duplex too takes the right pauses before responding to such conversations.

google-duplex

Google Duplex is all about making supported tasks more convenient. A user just has to interact with the Google Assistant instead of making actual phone calls for chores likes making appointments and reservations. Apart from being extremely convenient, the Duplex system is equipped to operate in an asynchronous manner, requesting reservations even during off-hours and with limited connectivity. It can also prove to be a great tool for transcending language and accessibility barriers, assisting users with hearing disabilities or those unfamiliar with a native language carry out everyday task with greater ease.

Fully Automated  

The Google Duplex is a fully automated system, capable of pulling off sophisticated conversations without human involvement. This is achieved by training the system in any new domain with real-time supervision. Just the way, you’d train a student or new employee in a new discipline or role, making them work under close supervision at all times. In this case, experienced operators have been picked out to act as instructors. These operators monitor the system and tweak its behaviour in real time until it achieves a desired level of quality. Once the Duplex system is well-trained in a given domain, the supervision stops and it can make calls autonomously.

Duplex also comes with self-monitoring capabilities that allow it to assess which tasks are beyond its capability, at which point it ceases to act autonomously and signals a human operator to take over.

Google intends to start testing this system within its Assistant this summer. So, you can expect the Google Assistant to support Duplex functionalities in the near future.

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Panasonic’s Eluga Ray 700: a powerful smartphone with a pocket-friendly price
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Panasonic’s Eluga Ray 700: a powerful smartphone with a pocket-friendly price

One of the cameras can be used as an X-ray device
Brand Story
by Brand Story

The burgeoning smartphone market of India has many parallels with the movie industry, wherein the shelf life of both, a new smartphone or film remains in the buzz for a limited amount of time. However, there are some movies which are able to defy this norm by being in the people’s mind for a long time. If you think about it, then there are some mobile phones as well which are able to achieve the same feat. One such sleeper hit is Panasonic’s Eluga Ray 700, which has been in the market since September 2017.

As per the brand, the sub-Rs 10K smartphone has been a runaway hit for the company, exceeding all expectations. Perhaps that’s why it comes as a no surprise that the phone has been out of stock on all reseller platforms for quite some time. Considering the smartphone comes with a number of features, in terms of both hardware and software, the phone has become an attractive proposition for consumers. If you’re still on the fence about purchasing a budget smartphone, then read on to find why the Eluga Ray 700 fits the bill.

One of the strongest aspects that have made the Panasonic Eluga Ray 700 a favourite among consumers is its 5,000mAh battery. With a battery this massive, the phone can easily last more than a day and a half. In fact, with moderate usage, users have reported that they’ve been able to use it for two days without requiring a juice up. Furthermore, while charging, the smartphone tends to keep its thermals in check, meaning, if you pick up the phone at any point of time, you won’t be caught off guard with high temperatures.

With a powerful battery, the smartphone also becomes an ideal device for consuming multimedia on the go, thanks to its 5.5-inch display. Add to it the fact that the IPS screen offers a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, ensuring crisp visuals and sharp text. There are hardly any good smartphones in this price range that offer a full HD panel, so it’s not surprising that the Eluga Ray 700 ended up becoming such a hot seller.

However, not everyone who has a smartphone is using them just to watch movies or look at photos. Sure, that’s something everyone enjoys, but there are people who use their phones for more work and less play. The Panasonic Eluga Ray 700 takes care of this aspect too. Under the hood, the phone is powered by an octa-core MediaTek processor mated to 3GB of RAM. The combination ensures that the device can handle anything thrown at it. For the workaholics, this means that you can easily multi-task and switch between various browser windows and email clients so that you can work on your presentation and files with ease. While for gamers, the hardware ensures that you can enjoy some casual sessions of racing or shooting titles, without being annoyed with lags or massive frame drops.

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Last but not the least, the Eluga Ray700 comes with impressive imaging credentials too. The smartphone offers 13-megapixel cameras on both the front and back. The primary sensor also offers Phase Detect AF, improving the AF performance over non-PDAF smartphones that are available in this price range.

For Rs 10,000, it starts to become more evident as to why the Panasonic Eluga Ray 700 continues to be a strong seller for the Japanese company. The focus on overall specs makes it ideal for a vast majority of users, be it as a work phone or a multimedia-centric smartphone. So, if you’re looking for a reliable smartphone, you should probably grab the Eluga Ray 700 before it goes out of stock, again.

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Google has been pushing the Assistant since launching it 3 years ago. Last year Google even introduced the Assistant in Hindi in India. The company said that by the end of the year

  • Google Assistant will have six new voice including a voice of popular singer John Legend.
  • Google introduced something called continued conversation. This allows the user to carry on the conversation with Google assistant without saying "Hey Google" Or "Ok Google" Multiple times.

 

  • Also, multiple actions are coming to Google Assitant as well. It means that you can issue multiple commands at once. For instance, you can say "Hey Google play Narcos on my TV and turn the coffee maker on".
  • The company is also integrating Google assistant for display based devices as well. The devices were originally announced at CES.
  • Google also introduce something called Duplex which will make calls for you and book appointments. Google's demo about that was insane.

phone_calling_fom_the_google_assistant-max-1000x1000

  • Routines are rolling out to the world as well. They are a bunch of actions performed together with one command. For instance when you say "Ok Google, Good morning!", It can read you the news, switch on the lights and start the coffee maker as well. You can set routines from Google Assistant settings as well.
  • Pretty Please is a feature which teaches politeness to kids. With Family link, Google Assistant provides free family-friendly games, activities, and stories from content partners like Disney. It also understands when a kid is talking and provides encouragements for gentle conversations. Assistant also gives them positive feedback when they ask for something nicely.
  • In the maps, users would be able to send text messages, play music and podcasts, and get information without leaving the navigation screen through Google assistant. For example, say “Hey Google, play reply all podcast” and the latest episode will start playing.

 

Facebook Conversations
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Google Photos will now allow you to colorise old photos, turn pictures into PDFs
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Google Photos will now allow you to colorise old photos, turn pictures into PDFs

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Siddharth Sujan
by Siddharth Sujan

Expectations were running high from Google's annual developer conference, I/O 2018 and just like every year, the tech giant more than delivered on the first day of the mega event. Amongst a hoard of announcements, Google notably revealed a whole of bunch of changes to its photo storing & managing service, Google Photos. According to the company, Google Photos now has more than 500 million active users.

screen-shot-2018-05-09-at-9-35-44-am

Google took to a blog post to announce all these changes in a more detailed manner. One of the most prominent features of the new Google Photos is that the app is all set to become a lot more interactive. The company, in its blog post, revealed that Google Photos will soon be able to make suggestions to improve the pictures in your library.

Powered by 'machine learning', the app will soon be able to make suggestions such as adjusting brightness, hiding a screenshot and share a picture amongst others. This suggestion will be only visible on relevant photos and users will be able to complete these actions in a single tap.

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In addition, Google Photos will now also integrate Artificial Intelligence more than ever before. The app will use AI to facilitate colour editing for pictures. With a single touch, users will be able to give their pictures an artistic touch as the AI will identify the subject and keep it in colour while making the background black and white. The company also announced in its blog post that it is working on allowing users to change their old black and white pictures into colour with just a single tap. These features will be available in the Assistant tab of Google Photos. Additionally, Google also said that it will use AI to help separate subjects in photos or recognise images of documents and automatically convert them to PDF files.

Though there is no definite timeline on when these features will actually make it to Google Photos, the company seems to be really banking on the photo managing app's popularity. Keeping just that in mind, Google has also released new APIs for developers that can plug into Google Photos services directly. What this means is that developers will now be able to take Google Photos' reach much beyond smartphones and computers, into other photos. Brace yourselves for a lot more apps and devices running Google Photos, people!

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