Google’s DeepMind AI Said to Outperform Professional Lip-Readers

Google's DeepMind AI Said to Outperform Professional Lip-ReadersArtificial technology has taken significant leaps in recent times with companies such as Microsoft even making bold claims that its speech recognition system is as good as humans. Now, the latest achievements of Google’s AI technology might help in significantly improving the lives of hearing-impaired people with a better lip-reading system, as well as improving the quality of translations using Multilingual Neural Machine Translation.

An AI system developed in collaboration with DeepMind, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, and University of Oxford was trained by using news videos with runtime of over 5,000 hours, and over 118,000 sentences, according to a report by New Scientist.

The videos were taken from BBC shows that aired between 2010 and 2015. After training, the system was set to lip read programmes broadcast between March and September of this year. According to the report, the system can decipher entire phrases like “We know there will be hundreds of journalists here as well,” by just looking at the speaker’s lips.

While a professional lip-reader was able to register a success rate of just 12.4 percent in trying to decipher 200 randomly selected clips from the above data set, the AI system successfully recognised 46.8 percent of all words from the data set.

Google further announced that the company’s translation tool – Google Translate – which recently received the support of Neural Machine Translation to recognise entire phrases instead of single words, will now make use of Multilingual Neural Machine Translation. The company says that Multilingual Neural Machine Translation improves upon the previous system and uses it as a base.

“Our proposed architecture requires no change in the base GNMT system, but instead uses an additional “token” at the beginning of the input sentence to specify the required target language to translate to. In addition to improving translation quality, our method also enables “Zero-Shot Translation” – translation between language pairs never seen explicitly by the system,” the search giant said in a blog post.

This effectively means that Google Translate will now use one system for all translations instead of using individual systems for each language pair translation. It further allows the system to do translation between language pairs that it has never seen before.

Even though we will have to wait for the actual impact of these achievements by Google’s AI technology, it has to be said that the technology’s feat is impressive at the very least.

Google IO 2016 Dates and Venue Announced

Google IO 2016 Dates and Venue Announced

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has announced the date and venue for the company’s annual developer event. Google I/O 2016 will be held in Mountain View, California on May 18 through May 20 later this year.

Pichai shared the news on social media adding that the event was heading back “to the neighbourhood where it all started 10 years ago: Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View.” The company has for the past several years held its annual event at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, which is why its decision to hold the event at a different could have a special purpose.

The company typically utilises the event to announce the new Android version and make available its developer preview to enthusiasts. The company, for instance, announced Android M (since lengthened to Marshmallow) and its feature at its last year’s developer conference. The company also announces major upcoming changes to apps and its cloud products.

At Google I/O 2016, the company is expected to introduce Android N and showcase some of its features. One feature that we’re really looking forward to is multi-window support on Android. Reports suggest that the company is working on it – in fact, it was expected to be announced with Android M, later revealed as Android Marshmallow. We also expect to get an update on Google Glass, and perhaps see a new improved version of Cardboard.

The company could also share an update on Brillo and Weave, the operating systems for IoT devices. It will be interesting to see if Google reveals any major update to Chrome OS, which will supposedly bring some Android features.

The company’s decision to hold the event in its own backyard certainly could be seen as the new beginning for the company, which announced a major reshuffle last year, creating a holding company,Alphabet Inc. It could also mean that the company will use the voluminous space to give self-driving car demonstrations.

Google Maps for Android Can Now Figure Out Where You’re Going

Google Maps for Android Can Now Figure Out Where You're Going

Google Maps is all set to receive its first major update in 2016 which brings several new features including Driving mode and more.

The new Google Maps for Android version 9.19 is currently not available on Google Play and can be expected to be rolled out soon. For those who can’t wait for the new features can download the apk which is signed by Google via APK Mirror.

One of the biggest highlights of the upcoming Maps update is the ‘intelligent’ Driving mode which essentially utilises the user’s location history and Web searches to provide traffic updates and ETA (estimated time of arrival). The new Driving mode feature is an optional feature in the new Maps update for Android. It can be enabled from a shortcut on the home screen and can also be turned on from the navigation drawer.

Android Police points out that Driving mode in the latest update is already plagued with a bug that actually makes it hard to switch on the feature. “Driving mode has to be enabled through some arcane set of steps on each device before it can actually be used,” writes Cody Toombs of Android Police. Google may fix the bug before making the new app available to all users, and so a gradual rollout could be expected.

The new Maps for Android update (version 9.19) also brings the on-screen toggle for turning on or off the turn-by-turn voice assistance. Previously, the toggle for audio was shifted to overflow menu making it harder for users to turn on or off the option while driving.

The Google Maps interface has also received minor tweaks with the Manage location settings option been switched for Timeline settings. The new setting allows users to control what the users see and restrict data usage. Some of the other additions include to option to see images from Google Photos or switch on the search option to correct an inaccurately feed location.

Google Experiments With Search on Android; Adds Yoga Cards

Google Experiments With Search on Android; Adds Yoga Cards

Google seems to be experimenting with new automated search options that are now visible to several users in the dropdown menu.

As reported by several users, the Google Search option now shows Recent Searches, What’s Hot, and Nearby. Notably, the new options appear just below the last searched term in the search menu. It’s worth noting that until now on tapping the Search app, last few searched terms appeared first. The Recent Searches includes all last searches while the What’s Hot option will throw popular search results. The Nearby automated search (via Android Police) however takes cues from Google’s Maps app and offers options such as Restaurants, Gas Stations, ATMs, and Coffee. So far, it is unclear whether the new search options will be default or will have an option to be disabled.

We can expect Google to release an update to the Search app bringing the new search options.


Additionally, Google has also started rolling out brand new yoga cards. Google’s Hong Kong Plus account confirmed the rollout and is said to be now available on mobile as well as desktop. The new yoga-based cards will show up in search results when a user searches for a pose. The cards will offer additional details such as the Sanskrit name of the yoga pose and the advantages of the pose accompanied by images of the pose.

Google in its post stresses that the new feature has been rolled out for people who are yoga enthusiasts and have just started trying the poses.

LG Smartphones’ Factory Reset Protection Can Be Easily Bypassed

LG Smartphones' Factory Reset Protection Can Be Easily Bypassed: Report

Google introduced a security feature called Factory Reset Protection with Android 5.1 Lollipop in March 2015. The feature ensures that if someone gets possession of your smartphone, they will not be able to reset the device without signing in with the registered Gmail address. One year later, smartphone manufacturers continue to incorrectly implement the feature or ignore Google’s guidelines. The latest OEM found to be avoiding this additional layer of security is LG.

A flaw discovered in LG smartphones enables an attacker – or anyone – to bypass the Factory Reset Protection (FRP) on the device. By doing so, the fraudster could gain access to the stolen smartphone or tablet. The flaw was discovered by RootJunky, who has also made a video demonstration to walk users through all the steps that are needed to break the security protection.

As per the video, a user is required to go to Accessibility settings, which for some reason is open. Once there, as RootJunky pointed out, some more changes in the settings are required (as you can see in the video below). The video points out that LG isn’t completely disabling a user from accessing the Web browser, and File Explorer app. Thanks to these security holes, all a user needs is a patch – available from RootJunky’s website — install it, and trick the phone into factory resetting itself.

This isn’t the first time an OEM has been found to have a weak implementation of Factory Reset Protection feature. Last year, RootJunky found vulnerabilities in Samsung smartphones. The flaw, however, required someone to plug-in a USB drive.

Google has taken a strong stand on the factory reset feature. The documentation for the Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which it released last year, revealed that the Mountain View-based company has made itmandatory for OEMs to provide the secure factory reset feature. It will be interesting to see if that will curtail these security holes.

Google Now Launcher Update Brings Homescreen Landscape Mode and More

Google Now Launcher Update Brings Homescreen Landscape Mode and More

Google on Wednesday rolled out v5.8.45 of Google Now Launcher to those who are in Google’s Beta testing channel. The major changes introduced in the update were home screen landscape orientation and app normalisation. However, the firm later rolled out a minor update v5.8.47 in which it removed the app normalisation feature.

The landscape orientation in the latest Google Now Launcher version was first seen in Android M previews but was pulled in the final version. Users can activate the option by switching on the ‘Allow rotation’ option in the Settings menu of the launcher. When enabled, the launcher will able to rotate the home screen, app drawer, and Now card vertically. In addition, the landscape mode also brings an extra column of apps in the app list.

As spotted by 9to5Google, the update also included some bugs. In Nexus 5X, the landscape view showed a huge gap between the app favourites tray and the on-screen button. In some cases, the on screen buttons did not get greyed. In addition, a new animation now shows-up while activating and exiting from the Google Now on Tap feature.

The search giant also introduced the app normalisation feature, which aligns the size of all the apps on the home screen and the app list to make it look consistent. Google has already set guidelines for developers. However, some don’t follow the rules and as a result some app icons appear bigger/ smaller than others. We are yet to see when Google rolls out the update for its Google Now launcher to general users. For those keen to try the version, they can manually download and install it via the Google-signed apk via APK Mirror.

Google Play Now Supports Promo Codes for Paid Apps, In-App Purchases

Google Play Now Supports Promo Codes for Paid Apps, In-App Purchases

Google has announced that developers now have the ability to create a promo code for a paid app. With the introduction, Google says that developers can now offer a paid app or in-app product to users for free with a promo code.

It’s worth noting that the promo code feature has been available to iOS (App Store) users for a long time but Google was missing on the feature until now.

The company on its Developer site says that promo codes allows developers to give content or features to a limited number of users for free. “Once you [developers] create a promo code, you can distribute it subject to the terms of service. The user enters the promo code in your app or in the Play Store app, and gets the item at no cost. You can use promo codes in many ways to creatively engage with users,” noted Google. The company says that developers can create promotions in the Google Play Developer Console.

Google details some of the scenarios where a developer can offer a promo code to users. “A game could have a special item, such as a character or decoration, that’s only available to players who attend an event. The developer could distribute cards with promo codes at the event, and users would enter their promo code to unlock the item,” notes Google. Further, developers may hand over promo codes at local businesses, in an attempt “to encourage potential users” to try the app. App developers can also offer promo codes to its employees to share with “friends and family”.

The company has also listed some instructions for developers creating promo codes such as for each app, an app developer can create up to 500 promo codes per quarter. “To reach that limit, you can use any combination of paid app and in-app promo codes,” adds Google.

The company however limits that if a developer do not use all 500 promo codes in a quarter, access to them will be lost and unused codes will not carry over to the next quarter. For app developers who wish to create promo codes for their apps can head to the Developer Console.

Google Chrome to Get Native Cast Support

Google Chrome to Get Native Cast Support

Google is working on a way to build a casting service inside the Chrome browser. Until now users would have to download and install Google Cast Chrome extension to stream music, videos, and other webpages from the browser to their Chromecast-connected TV.

Francois Beaufort from the company’s Chrome division on Tuesday posted that the Chromium team is “currently experimenting in Beta Channel with casting tabs without the Google Cast extension installed thanks to the new Media Router.” This will let users simply right+click on any page in Chrome browser and then select Cast to stream it to a nearby Chromecast-connected TV without using the extension.

As per Beaufort, the new feature has not yet arrived in the general release of Chrome. However, beta users can try it by enabling the “Media Router” feature at chrome://flags/#media-router.

Google at CES 2016 announced a slew of companies it’s working with to expand the reach of Android TV and Google Cast. Google says that more Android TV-supported devices will be available from Arcelik, Vestel, RCA, Hisense, TCL, and Bang & Olufsen around the world sometime this year.

Chromecast Audio released last year, and promises to replace all your speakers around the house with “smart” speakers. Google Cast for Audio, which is the core underlying technology that also enables multi-speaker and soon multi-room setups, will soon get devices from B&O Play, Harman/Kardon, Onkyo, Philips, Pioneer, and Raumfeld.

Google with Chrome 47 for Android last month introduced download ‘snackbar’ at the bottom of the screen. The app version also brought the ability for developers to add splash screens to Web apps when a site is launched from the Android home screen. Chrome 47 for Android also featured support for theme-colour attribute without merging tabs and apps.

With Chrome 47 for Windows, Mac, and Linux, Google removed the desktop notification centre. Google in October announced its plans to remove the Chrome desktop notification centre because not many users utilised it, and some had even disabled it. It was introduced in 2013. The feature however, is still present in Chrome OS for now. On iOS, Chrome 47 adds support for more hardware keyboard shortcuts along with support for 3D Touch for iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models.

Tax Sops for Angel Investment Will Boost Initiative, Says Google India

Startup India: Tax Sops for Angel Investment Will Boost Initiative, Says Google India

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi gears up to give a shot in the arm to startups with the launch of ‘Start Up India, Stand up India’ initiative on Saturday, Google India feels friendly policies, encouragement to the existing startups, and adequate infrastructure would provide an impetus to newcomers.

It also suggests that tax incentives would go a long way in supporting entrants. “Tax-free investment for angel money for three years will help startups,” Sunil Rao, head of startup ecosystem, Google India, told IANS in an interview in New Delhi.

“The ecosystem will get a real boost with startup friendly policies that the government may announce. Secondly, if the government provides encouragement to people who have been flourishing in the existing ecosystem, like recognising them and giving them a good platform, will be great. That will motivate others to go ahead,” Rao said.

The industry also expects the government to make exiting easier if a venture does not work, so that new startups could be floated.

Google mentors startup companies across the world, providing them with assistance and seeing them through their teething troubles. In India, Google started this programme around three years back. It has so far trained 70 companies in early stage and an additional 70 under the Google Launchpad programme. By 2016, it would have trained 16 more under the Google Accelerator programme.

The company is also planning to start an advanced stage programme soon for startup firms which have already raised some funding.

Rao mentioned that the mortality rate of startup ventures in India is high. “Around 60 percent of the startups don’t last more than 18 months. But it is globally in tune with similar countries like Indonesia, Brazil and Latin America. And the good thing is out of this 60 percent, around 50 percent companies start another venture,” he said.

Rao attributed the high mortality rate to inadequate due diligence that the entrepreneurs do before they start the venture. “They don’t do sufficient due diligence about product or market fit,” Rao said.

He suggested that to become a successful entrepreneur, young entrepreneurs should spend six to eight months to validate the ideas before starting.

Saying that strategising the business model well before the launch is crucial, he added that Indian startup market is now at a stage where China was five years back.

“The future of startups in India is bright. I can compare this to the what China was five years back. More and more Chinese companies are working and developing apps for the China market and not for the western market. Even in India, we have seen in the last two years that the survival rate of startups providing products for the local market is much higher.”

Google’s Eric Schmidt Meets With Pope Francis at the Vatican

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, had an unusual meeting on his calendar on Friday — a private sit-down with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Neither Google nor the Vatican would comment on what the two discussed during the meeting, said to have lasted 15 minutes.

A video report from the TV news agency Rome Reports showed the pontiff shaking hands with Schmidt and Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas. Schmidt said to Francis, “I want to work with you to make these points. … We will make it happen.” The pope responded, “Pray for me. Don’t forget.” It’s not known what the two were referring to.

Although Francis has admitted he doesn’t know how to work a computer and has called the Internet a “gift from God,” he is no stranger to Google products. The 79-year-old pontiff has hosted two Google Hangouts from the Vatican, including one in which he confessed he’s a “dinosaur” when it comes to technology.

Pope Francis is also a social media star, racking up more than 8.4 million followers on Twitter.