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Google’s ‘Pixel Buds’ may be the key to breaking the language barrier

Mandatory Credit: Photo by AP/REX/Shutterstock (9114955r)
Google Pixel Buds are shown at a Google event at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco
Google Showcase, San Francisco, USA – 04 Oct 2017

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

Out of all the products Google launched at its big event this week, there’s one that should have Apple really worried.

No, it’s not the Pixel phones (though they certainly seem like worthy iPhone competitors) or the MacBook-like Pixelbook, it’s the Pixel Buds.

More than any other gadget Google launched, the $159 Pixel Buds (which, by the way, are already out of stock on Google’s store), perfectly encapsulate how Google can use it’s incredible AI advantage to beat Apple at its own game.

To be clear, this isn’t about whether the Pixel Buds, as they are right now, are better than AirPods. I’m on record as a huge fan of my AirPods, and I walked away from my first Pixel Buds demo less impressed with the look and feel of Google’s ear buds.

But I’m talking about much more than just aesthetics, which are easily fixed (particularly now that Google has an extra 2,000 engineers from HTC onboard).

No, it was this — Google’s first public demo of the Pixel Buds — that should have Apple very, very worried.

That demo is perhaps Google’s best example of how its new “AI-first” vision can completely and radically change its hardware — and its ability to compete with Apple. Pixel Buds, which have Google Assistant and real-time translation for 40 languages built right in, are, for now, Google’s best example of this vision.

But Pixel Buds are only the beginning.

These types of integrations will make their to the rest of Google’s hardware faster than you can say “talking poop emoji.” There are already signs of it. The Pixel Phones use algorithms — not extra lenses — to enable portrait mode and an overall smarter camera. The new Google Home Max uses AI to make its sound better. And Google’s first-class computer vision capabilities — whether it’s in the Lens app, the Clips camera, or the Pixelbook’s image search — has the potential to completely change how you use cameras, and laptops, and smartphones.

So while Apple has the iPhone 8 and the massively hyped iPhone X for now — even I won’t pretend Google has a shot at outselling Apple in the near term — Google’s AI is so much farther ahead of Apple’s it’s almost laughable.

Yes, Cupertino has made a concerted effort to step up its AI recently, particularly when it comes to Siri. And the company’s latest iPhones are unquestionably its smartest yet. But FaceID and talking emoji pale in comparison to Google’s dominance.

And nowhere is that more evident than Pixel Buds.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/10/06/google-pixel-buds-apple-ai/

This isn’t the first time Dove rolled out a racist ad

Image: MARK ZUCKERBERG/FACEBOOK

For all the good Facebook has done in the wake of Hurricane Maria, CEO Mark Zuckerberg sending his cartoon avatar to the ravaged streets of Puerto Rico on Monday afternoon stands out as a tone-deaf misstep. He capitalized on a natural disaster to promote his company’s new tech, and the whole thing just felt … awkward.

Zuck sent his curly-haired, smiling avatar on a virtual journey to the suffering territory with Rachel Rubin Franklin, the leader of Facebook’s social reality team, courtesy of a 360-degree video created by NPR.

Zuckerberg and Franklin’s cartoon avatars floated along observing floods and destruction as Zuckerberg waxed poetic about the “magical” quality of virtual reality.

They even shared an awkward high five in front of flooded homes while laughing about how they were using the Facebook Spaces tech from different locales.

Twitter and some viewers commenting on the Live video on Facebook were quick to ask an important question…WTF?

Image: FACEBOOK

The juxtaposition of Zuckerberg’s avatar bobbing around hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico was indeed weird, but seeing him try to transition to the next stop on his virtual tour was even more cringeworthy.

After an awkward exchange about how the duo felt like they were really in Puerto Rico, filled with uncomfortable pauses and Zuck grabbing the virtual camera to show viewers the “completely flooded” street, the Facebook founder asks his coworker if she wants to “teleport” somewhere else.

“Maybe back to California?” Franklin said with a nervous laugh, and soon the two were on their way to San Jose to stand on stage at last year’s Oculus Connect 3 VR conference.

Despite this bizarre virtual trip to Puerto Rico, Facebook has carried out important disaster relief to help the devastated island. About 15% of residents are still without power and only about 19% of the territory’s cellphone towers are working, according to a government website tracking outages, even three weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall.

Facebook has donated $1.5 million for Puerto Rico relief through World Food Program and Net Hope. The company has also sent employees to help with Puerto Rico’s connectivity issues and has partnered with the Red Cross to use an artificial intelligence program to build population maps, in order to locate communities in need of assistance.

Perhaps Zuck’s intention with this Facebook Live was to bring a spotlight to Puerto Rico, but plopping VR cartoons into a disaster zone and peppering the conversation with nervous laughter just feels ignorant.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/10/09/mark-zuckerberg-virtual-reality-fail-puerto-rico/

Google Photos can now recognize the lovable faces of your cats and dogs


I wish this was one of the approximately 8,000 dog photos on my phone.

Image: Ruud Lauritsen/Kennel Club/REX/Shutterstock

Google knows that your phone holds untold gigabytes of snapshots of your favorite animal friends. So the search giant is making it even easier to group those pics all together.

The algorithm behind Google Photos will now be able to recognize your Very Good dogs and cats automatically, and will group the reams of photos you’ve taken of them just like it does with pics of people. Google announced the new functionality in a blog post, which is alone worth a read for the sheer number of paw puns pulled off in five short paragraphs.

You’ll also be able to assign a label to each grouping of pet photos, so when you’re in need of an Instagram-worthy pupper shot, you can just search your photos by your dog’s name.

Image: google

Google claims you’ll be able search your photos by breed, too, but the company acknowledged to BuzzFeed that the algorithm could have trouble differentiating between multiple animals within that parameter. You’ll also be able to search using 🐶  and 🐱 emoji through all of your animal images, whether they’re actually your own, or just the funny cat pics you download from the internet.

The new search and organization features are only available for dogs and cats, though. If you love your horse or iguana or massive rideable python, you’re sadly out of luck. You’ll have to organize those pics yourself.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/10/16/google-photos-pet-search-features/

 

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