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Google I/O 2021 Announcements: Android 12, WearOS, Smart canvas, LaMDA AI platform

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Google’s annual I/O developer conference kicked off in Mountain View, California, with a product keynote. The software powerhouse unveiled updates to Maps and Workspace. We also saw new versions of its Android and WearOS platforms. Here’s the lowdown on the major announcements from Google at this year’s developer conference.

Android 12

Google announced a new version of Android, the software that powers a majority of the world’s smartphones. Android 12 represents the biggest design overhaul in the history of OS. Android 12 brings personalizable colour palettes, updated notifications and faster, battery-saving performance. Everything from the lock screen to the home screen and system settings have been revamped. The new interface is more playful and vibrant, bringing a much needed revamp to the mobile operating system. Android 12 will arrive later this year, but the first public beta is already available. The beta is available on Google Pixel phone as well as smartphones from Asus, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Sharp, TCL, Vivo, Xiaomi and ZTE.

WearOS merges with Tizen

A new version of WearOS is here, and it’s different. The reason: Google and Samsung are merging WearOS and Tizen. The merger of two operating systems will result in longer battery life with always-on heart rate monitoring, 30 per cent faster loading times for apps, and smoother animations. As per Google, developers will create apps for one single platform. Samsung confirmed that its next-gen Galaxy Watch will run on this unified platform.  Meanwhile, Fitbit devices will also run the new software.

Google Maps getting ‘safe routing’ option to help avoid accidents

Google Maps is gaining a new eco-friendly route option that will give you the most fuel-efficient routes. Another feature coming to Google Maps is Safer Routing that will use machine learning to fuel-efficient routes and safer routing based on road, weather and traffic conditions. The idea is to eliminate sudden breaking/stops.

Google Workspaces gets Smart canvas

A new update to Google Workspaces includes “Smart Canvas”. It appears to be a mashup of Google Sheets, Docs and Slides. Google Meet is deeply integrated, and later this year, a companion mode will be added. It will use AI for lighting, framing and focussing, and translations.

LaMDA AI platform

On Tuesday, Google announced LaMDA, a natural language platform that is currently in the R&D stage within the company. The idea is to have more natural conversations, something the current-generation voice assistants struggle to understand. To showcase LaMDA’s abilities, Google showed videos of two short conversations with the model, including a conversation with LaMDA acting as the planet Pluto. “It’s amazing how sensible and interesting the conversation is. But it’s still early research, so it doesn’t get everything right,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai during the presentation.

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