Android

5 biggest Google I/O announcements: Circle to Search, Search changes, and lots of AI

Google I/O 2024 is a turning point for the company. CEO Sundar Pichai eloquently called it “the Gemini era.” Search is changing after today. Gmail is changing. Assistant is changing. Google is now an AI company and Gemini is at the heart of everything the company does going forward.

So, how does that affect you? Well, there are a few new features announced today. AI overviews will make your life easier across Google’s products, while Circle to Search gains new homework superpowers. Scam call detection will help keep you safe while Google Search is changing. And, as predicted, say goodbye to Google Assistant, which becomes Google Gemini.

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Multimodal AI at the heart of everything

Gemini Nano is the foundation of all of Google’s newfound AI superpowers. It’s an on-device model that takes advantage of Google’s Tensor Processing Units (TPU), and Pichai unveiled the 6th generation today. But it’s the multimodality that is the big news here.

This technology allows Google’s AI to understand and respond to lots of different kinds of input, from text, images, audio, and even video. As an example, various presenters on stage showed off their interactions with Gemini through different mediums, from uploading a PDF to Circle to Search to video to speaking to their phone. The AI was able to understand it all and process it. Google says this is at the core of the new “Gemini era.”

Homework help just got even more Googly

A screenshot of the Google I/O stage and different recipes showing on a big screen at the front of the stage.
Source: Google I/O screenshot

Circle to Search is no longer confined to the Galaxy S24 or Pixel 8. It’s now woven directly into the Android experience, and 100 million devices can begin using it today.

The technology debuted at Samsung’s Unpacked event back in February. You can circle something on your screen with your finger, and Google will display a card explaining that thing. The card pops up on the bottom of the screen. It was only available on select Samsung and Pixel phones, but Google just announced the technology becomes a part of Android today.

Circle to Search is also getting more context-aware and will be able to help with homework, particularly solving equations. You can circle a stubborn math problem and Google will help you through the steps you need to take to solve it. It can also instantly break down complex chemistry formulas. It will be able to help with more complex equations and formulas later in the year.

2 AI Overviews

Like Cliff Notes for your life

Google I:O android demo

Google gave us a taste of its new AI Overviews at this year’s I/O. These are concise summaries of information compiled into an easy-to-digest information card. Imagine getting the main points of a news article or a lengthy back-and-forth email thread without reading the entire thing.

Google said AI overviews will come to most of its products, including Search, Gmail, and Google Docs. They’ll also be available on 100 million Android devices beginning today, and double that by the end of the year.

Possibly the biggest news of the day

A screenshot of Liz Reid standing on stage at Google IO with a screen behind her displaying a map and a photo.
Source: Google I/O screenshot

Google Search changes today for Americans and later in the year for the rest of the world (unless you’re using one of the better VPNs, of course). Search is now powered by Gemini AI. Forget scrolling through lists of blue links; the new Google Search delivers a personalized experience. AI overviews provide concise summaries of your search results, and search can tap into your email, calendar, and maps to give you relevant details.

You can enter complex queries thanks to the multimodal functionality powering Gemini. Google’s head of search, Liz Reid, showed this off when she input a long and very specific search query using natural human language, and Search returned contextual results. It even showed a map of where she could find the Yoga studio she was looking for.

And for those times when words cannot express what you’re looking for, Google Search now allows you to record videos right from the search bar on your mobile. Search can deliver results based on what you filmed.

4 Assistant is dead

Long live Gemini

A screenshot of a man standing on stage at Google I/O with an image of the Google Gemini app on a Pixel behind him.

Nobody on the stage explicitly declared the end of Google Assistant, but Pichai did say that Assistant is now Gemini. And in every demo using a Pixel device, it wasn’t Assistant that popped up from the bottom of the screen; it was Gemini.

This isn’t a bad thing. Assistant had been feeling its age over the past couple of years and was limited to simple tasks and pre-programmed responses. Gemini, as a Large Language Model generative AI, promises to be a much more productive partner for our phones. The new Gemini will offer dynamic and personalized responses and can understand the context and nuance of your conversations.

Google also unveiled new ways to personalize Gemini using tidbits of information called “Gems,” which means you can feed all sorts of personal information to Gemini, and it will remember these “Gems” in its responses.

But what does this mean for Google Home products? Is Assistant sticking around and if so, how functional will it remain? Likely, we’ll eventually see new Nest devices with Gemini baked in sometime in the future, but does this mean our older speakers and hubs will soon be useless?

We can only speculate for now. But the integration of a powerful LLM like Gemini with smart home devices will be a game changer for all of our homes.

5 Scam call detection

Google doesn’t believe you’re the IRS

Gemini scam detection showing a warning that the call is likely a scam and giving options to dismiss and continue or end call.
Source: Google

Google gave us intelligent call screening tools a couple of years ago, and today, it unveiled a new form of scam-busting. Your Android will use Gemini Nano’s on-device intelligence to listen to calls in real-time, analyzing conversation patterns for red flags commonly associated with scam callers. It will alert you with a warning message the moment it detects fraudulent activity, and you can end the call with the tap of an on-screen button.

Because it works with the Gemini Nano on-device AI, it doesn’t need the cloud. That means it can help you even if you don’t have a data connection and your calls remain private. There’s no denying that Google leads the pack when it comes to fighting scammers.

Google is changing, and it’s kinda cool

Google I/O 2024 is shaping up to be a landmark event, and today, we saw Google’s vision for the company’s future. Google is re-imagining everything from search to how we interact with AI to the way information is presented to the end-user. Tomorrow, we’ll see what Google has in store for Android in the new Gemini era.

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