While America was busy watching the solar eclipse (hopefully with the appropriate protective eyewear), Google rolled out its new Android OS and created the world’s first crowdsourced “Eclipse Megamovie” using footage from across the U.S. Google and its parent company Alphabet are also ramping up their altruistic activities worldwide, with new investments in African tech, skills, and startups; new languages supported by its speech-to-text technology; and a collaboration with ProPublica on a national Hate Crime Index for the U.S.
Android Oreo Confirmed
Following its longstanding tradition of naming its mobile operating systems after desserts, Google announced Monday that the new Android OS, version 8.0, would indeed be called "Oreo," as many had predicted. It offers new features such as picture-in-picture mode, which allows users to see two apps at once, auto form-fill for apps, and Apple OS-style notification dots to show users when they'e missed something within a certain app. Oreo also touts new security features, app install controls, and emojis. It rolls out first to the Google Pixel and Nexus 5X and 6P devices.
Solar Eclipse Megamovie
Google created a crowdsourced solar eclipse “Megamovie” to study the sun’s corona with the help of amateur astronomers, photography schools and colleges located along the path of totality for Monday’s total solar eclipse. It used machine learning to stitch together images from the archive based on location and timestamp. It has been training its machine learning modules using footage from past solar eclipses. Yet since the only precedent for this eclipse happened 100 years ago, the project itself is essentially a training exercise to help improve Google’s algorithms for covering similar future events.
Digital Skills For Africa
Via the Digital Skills for Africa initiative, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, said it will be training 10 million Africans in digital skills over the next five years. It’s also upping its funding to African startups and digital nonprofits and rolling out modified versions of products like YouTube to create better access to web services for the average person. In Africa, data plans can be even pricier than in other parts of the world, and download speeds are slower than in the rest of Google’s markets, Google told TechCrunch.
Speech-To-Text Learns New Languages
Google learned 30 new languages last week. Its speech recognition technology now supports a total of 119 languages and locales worldwide, including eight new Indian languages and two of Africa’s most widely spoken languages, Swahili and Amharic. For U.S. English speakers, speech-to-text capabilities now include dictating emojis – so users can say, “winky face emoji” rather than scrolling for it manually.
Collaboration Tracks U.S. Hate Crimes
Google News Lab, a partner in the ProPublica-led collaborative reporting project Documenting Hate, has released the Hate Crime Index. It uses machine learning to automatically aggregate articles related to hate crimes – racism, bigotry and abuse. The tool fills a major void, as there is no existing comprehensive agency or database for recording hate crimes nationwide. The index lets people search by keyword, date and locale, offering a bird’s-eye view but with great potential for granularity as well.
Six-Second Video Previews
Videos can be a great way to learn a new skill, but they can also be frustrating when the title or thumbnail misrepresents what is actually in the video. Google is working to change that with its new feature, which automatically plays a silent, six-second preview clip when users search via a mobile device that is connected to WiFi. Machine learning scans the full video and pulls out the most representative six seconds instead of just playing the beginning.
Verbing The Noun
Could the phrase “Google it” join the ranks of Photoshop, Windex, Xerox, Rollerblade, Wite-Out, and Taser – i.e., as a branded noun turned generic verb? If these two men get their way, the Supreme Court will consider stripping Google’s trademark and rendering the term generic. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled this spring that even though “google” is generally used to mean “search the Internet,” there are no other search engines calling themselves “a google,” so the name is still distinct.