Shubham AgarwalMay 11, 2019 14:14:46 IST
Google’s chiefs took the stage yet again to showcase what their teams have been working on for the past year. The annual developer conference – I/O so far has brought us a bunch of the company’s shiniest, whizziest new technologies along with upgrades to the existing ones.
Several of these advancements, however, are usually presented in their early stages and don’t always end up making their way to everyone due to some or the other obstacle. Here are a couple of forgotten products we’re still waiting for.
Obstruction Removal in Google Photos
With an unsurpassable pile of data, Google has democratised abilities, which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible without special hardware and software. Back in 2017, at the I/O keynote, Google promised to soon add another such feature which allowed anyone to effortlessly get rid of obstructions from their pictures.
In a demo, it took a shot of someone batting at a baseball game with a fence blocking the camera’s view. With a click of a button, Google showed how, with computer vision, its algorithms can remove the fence and accurately predict and fill the remnants.
The tool was one of the prime highlights of the conference, although Google didn’t announce a release date and has failed to address its arrival since then. Interestingly, in a report by XDA, it was revealed the feature was deprioritised as the team behind it got busy with other, more crucial projects.
It remains to be seen, therefore, whether Google will ever publicly launch it and how effective it is in real-life scenarios. We certainly hope the company circles back to it and rolls out to Google Photos’ growing arsenal of smart editing utilities.
Monochrome Photos Colorization
At last year’s I/O, Google also detailed an AI-powered feature for Google Photos that could instantly colorize your old, monochrome photographs. The neural network behind it was supposedly trained on a vast dataset housing millions of images and was designed to go with the “best guess” for colors. Google did say it won’t launch the feature until it thinks it’s “really right”.
Slices on Android
With Android P, Google demonstrated a whole new framework for quickly accessing an app’s most frequently used functions. Called Slices, the API enables developers to build handy, dynamic widgets which would appear in search results on Android whenever you look for them.
So for instance, you could search Lyft and Android will pull up your Home and Work shortcuts allowing you to easily call a cab without going through a bunch of steps.
While Google has technically released Slices for developers, it’s far from the reality the company had promised. We’ve already made the jump from Android P to Android Q and the only Slices available are a couple of system settings.
New Security-Focused Android Agreement
The one criticism Google has been unable to evade since inception is privacy. With frail developer guidelines and OEM agreements, Android has invariably fallen prey to more breaches and malware compared to its rivals. Thankfully, Google did take a positive step forward to mend the latter at I/O 2018.
At a security session, Google’s Dave Kleidermacher unveiled that the company will in the future mandate third-party manufacturers to deliver regular security patches. “We’ve also worked on building security patching into our OEM agreement. Now this will really lead to a massive increase in the number of devices, and users, receiving regular security patches.”, he said.
While Google did revamp its Android OEM agreement in October 2018, it proved to be a significant letdown to the ones hoping their non-Google phones will finally stay up to date against the latest threats.
In the new contract, Google required Android phone makers to release just four security updates in the first year and an unspecified number in the second. What’s more worrying is that the previous agreement, which was in effect for a decade, necessitated an even less number of security updates.
HTC Daydream Headset
To accelerate its Virtual Reality quests, Google two years ago at I/O announced that it’s opening the Daydream platform for third-party manufacturers. What that meant was other companies would be able to build standalone VR headsets with Google’s Daydream software at their core.
One of the initial partners Google revealed was HTC Vive which along with social promotions, also unveiled a video teaser. Sadly, while Daydream’s other partners like Lenovo successfully launched their headsets, HTC axed its only a few months after Google I/O 2017.
In an interview with TechCrunch, the Taiwanese giant confirmed it will no be longer developing a Daydream headset.
Google’s experimental ATAP division was shuttered a while back. One of its most exciting projects, however which was first previewed at I/O 2015, surprisingly survived. We’re referring to Project Soli, a radar-based gesture control system which promised to transform how you operate your gadgets.
The tiny chip made it possible for users to simply wave their hands to navigate on their phones, smartwatches, and more. Despite the assumption that it’s dead as well, Project Soli recently appeared in an FCC approval. Hence, it’s clear Google is still exploring it and could eventually bring it to the market -- perhaps on the rumored Pixel watch.
Google Maps’ Guiding Fox
While Google has gradually begun to roll out Google Maps’ Augmented Reality mode for walking directions, there is one feature it hasn’t addressed since I/O 2018. The Fox.
The demo last year also previewed a cute AR character which walked in front and guided you to your destination instead of those giant arrows. The expectation was that the fox would merely be the beginning and later, more characters will be added -- presumably on a special occasion similar to what Google currently does with easter eggs on Maps.
Google has, thankfully, not forgotten about this entirely. At Google I/O 2019, the company’s AR team said it’s still working on it citing experience issues. “It is really hard to get the experience right between a helpful AR character and a person.”, said one of the members.
Google’s yearly developer conference, I/O for 2019 has brought plenty of new features to test and keep an eye out for. Whether Google will eventually launch these highly anticipated and long-delayed products or charge ahead with new ones, we can only guess. Google hasn’t pulled the plug on the majority of these, hence there’s a good chance they’ll sooner or later show up.
The author is a freelance technology journalist from Ahmedabad. He tweets from @phonesoldier.
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