27 May Google Announces Great Updates To Google Now and Voice Search, Rebuilds Google Maps
Google’s annual I/O developers conference has traditionally been the launching pad for new devices or new versions of the Android operating system, attracting developers and tech enthusiasts from around the world.
This year, however, the focus was mostly on the developers, with new software development tools and updates to the Android OS that delighted developers. However, despite the absence of a new device (and not a lot said about Google Glass), this years conferences did bring with it a host of new features and updates for the Android OS and Google Maps that users will love!
The search company unveiled updates to its version of Siri, Google Voice, as well as Google Now and Google Maps.
Check out the updates below!
Google Voice Search
Google has updated its Voice Search function for Chrome, Android and iOS, which promises a ‘button-free’ way to search.
“It’s the end of search as we know it,” said Amit Singhai, a senior vice president and software engineer at Google, who introduced the updates to the Google Voice Search service. With the introduction of this update to search, the company revealed its plan for the future of search, which sees a search engine that not only answers your questions, but has a conversation with you and offers information before you even ask for it.
The new update allows users to search for information by simply saying “Ok Google”, following up with a question, in an attempt to improve hands free capability. Voice Search will automatically respond without the need to press a button, and has the capability to understand natural language, which makes asking a question verbally a lot less frustrating and hopefully more accurate. Conversation flow is the main focus, with the search able to understand follow up questions such as how to get there, what the weather is like and what attractions to visit when enquiring about a specific place. This means a lot more information delivered to you, with a little less effort.
Searches can be personalised and used to complete actions on your phone (as long as the Gmail search field trial feature is switched on), with the Voice Search able to complete queries such as “Send an email to Katie” or “Show me my photos from Sydney last year”. If you’re trying to find a place nearby your current location, Voice search can handle this, in addition to giving you directions to the chosen location from your current position. For those out and about this provides a host of information in the palm of your hand.
Voice Search essentially extends the functionality of Google Now, by allowing you to look for personalised information rather than having it shown on the cards. Of course, to get more out of this feature, you need to offer up more data to Google. Nevertheless, this update will take the virtual personal assistant to the next level, particularly with its more conversational personalised answers.
Have we found a worthy competitor for Apple’s Siri?
The new features for Google Voice Search will be coming to Chrome, iOS and Android “soon”.
Google is giving its personal assistant service Google Now a few updates and a few new features too.
The new voice reminder tool will be incredibly useful for those on the go all the time (or the forgetful ones among you). You can tell your Android device to remind you to do something, and it’ll bring up a quick dialogue to let you set a specific time and then tap once to save the reminder. Google Now will nudge you at the “right time” for your appointments and bring to your attention anything that will affect you meeting that appointment (such as public transport or traffic delays), helping those notorious for arriving ‘fashionably late’ get to where they need to be on time.
Other new features include a new public transportation card and a list of recommendations for new upcoming books, music or movies you might be interested in (based mostly likely from your Google Play history).
These features are already available for Android devices, with the update available via the Google Search app in Google Play.
Google maps will soon have a whole new look and a whole heap of cool features!
Instead of just going down the update path, Google have completely redesigned Google Maps from the ground up, with a new interface and extended features.
The very first thing that will strike you with the new Google maps, is the change to the user interface. While the search bar is still located in the upper left, the map now fills the entire screen. In terms of searching, Google has removed the Top results column and has replaced it with suggested locations that are highlighted and named on the map itself. Google have also introduced different views of search results; results can be sorted by “top reviewers,” Google+ social circle or “top results.”
Floating cards (such as those used on Google Now) display information such as ratings, photos and navigation shortcuts beneath the search bar when you have selected a specific location, giving you a quick overview of the place so you can decide on a place for dinner. Google have also made it super easy to create a shortcut for navigating to that location or saving for later, it’s as simple as a tap.
Not only will Google maps get you from A to B, but it will give you a variety of ways to get there. You will be able to compare many different modes of transportation at once, with all results labelled directly on the map. It still offers routes for driving, transit, walking and bicycling along with display modes for live traffic, transit routes with live updates (available in limited cities), and bike-friendly streets and paths. If you leave Google Maps in its default mode, it will decide not just the way that you go, but also how you get there.
Maps learns about the destinations you often access, which aids in Maps automatically planning a route to that destination in the background from these frequently accessed destinations to the point you’ve selected on the map.
As with frequently accessed destinations, Maps learns your preferences as you use it. As you give it information such as favourite places and ratings (among other things), it will adjust results to your likes and dislikes. On top of this, Maps will also make suggestions for the quickest routes home and places you might like. It even takes into account reviews your friends have submitted for certain places as well as adding important important places as permanent landmarks on your map.
Selecting a destination to get more information continuously changes the maps. For example, if you click on a popular restaurant, places like it will instantly populate on the map, with their names displayed in a darker, larger typeface than the rest of the places.
Drilling down to the level of an individual business will populate more detailed information such as Zagat reviews and whether anyone in your network (Google+) liked the place.
Street View/ 3D
Google Earth, Google’s virtual globe, is now integrated with Google Maps. This integration brings 3D photo tours of different places all over the world to your computer, while also giving you a view of Earth from space in real time.
While available with previous versions of Google Maps, the indoor version of Street View is fantastic. It allows you to virtually walk around certain businesses and public places, and with user submitted Android Photo Spheres of places all over the world now active, you now have access to pannable, 360-degree views of interiors.
Mobile hasn’t missed out, with the iOS and Android apps receiving updates. The new features included in the update, are Google Offers and Zagat reviews that pop up in the map. Traffic alerts that include live accidents that have just happened are also included, with the app automatically rerouting destinations.
An update on the Google Maps iPad app, has also been announced, with it expected to be released in the coming months.
If you want to give the new Google Maps a try, to can request an invite here.