Google I/O 2021, the annual hardware event has finally begun on Tuesday, May 18. As with the tradition, the keynote address took place with Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai on stage. The three-day conference will continue till May 20 with live sessions and virtual workshops. Here’s what the Mountain View tech giant has announced on the first day of the annual hardware conference.

Google I/O 2021 Highlights: Google Smart Canvas

Google has announced Smart Canvas a content collaboration platform that is aimed to enhance the Google Workspace experience. This integrated tool is said to make Drive and Sheets smarter and is deeply interconnected with Sheets, Tasks, Slides, and Google Meet. Users will be to launch a Meet video chat directly within Docs, share Doc directly into a Meet call. In addition, Google has added a Companion Mode in Meet which will provide each user their own tile while on a video call.

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The company also cited that Google Meet will utilise machine learning to cut ambient noise and provide adequate light for better presentation on video calls. With Google Docs, Smart Canvas will make it easier to insert ‘smart chips’ that are connected with other tools. To insert a smart chip or smart objects just type an @symbol into Google Docs, and a menu will pop up with a list of elements. Google notes that the smart chips will make their way to Google Meets in the coming months. There is mention about ‘assisted writing’ with inclusive language recommendations, pageless format, and emoji reactions in Docs as well.

Google I/O 2021 Highlights: Google Maps Upcoming features like Eco-friendly routes and Safer routing

Google Maps, the popular navigating tool is getting two new features- Eco-friendly routes and Safer routing. Although Eco-friendly was announced by the company in March, Google has mentioned the feature again at the I/O event. “Google Maps will default to the route with the lowest carbon footprint when it has approximately the same ETA as the fastest route. In cases where the eco-friendly route could significantly increase your ETA, we’ll let you compare the relative CO2 impact between routes so you can choose,” the company mentioned in its earlier blog post. As for Safer routing, the feature will limit the route depending on weather conditions, traffic, and other factors. Google hasn’t shared a specific release timeline about these features yet.

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Google I/O 2021 Highlights: Google LaMDA, next-gen AI for dialogue applications

Google announced its latest innovation LaMDA, the next-generation AI for dialogue applications. The language model is designed to have a better understanding of the context of conversations. During the briefing, LaMDA acted as Pluto and Paper Airplane and could deliver concrete facts throughout the conversation. However, Pichai noted that the language model is not yet perfect and that the company wants to ensure that it meets privacy and accuracy as per Google standards.

Google I/O 2021 Highlights: Google TPU V4, a machine learning quantum processor

The tech giant also revealed details about its new TPU V4 machine learning chipset which powers its TensorFlow. The TPU V4 are connected to supercomputers called pods each containing 4.096 V4 chipsets. Google designed the dedicated Tensor Processing Unit to ensure efficient AI and ‘machine learning-powered experience.’

Google I/O 2021 Highlights: Google Privacy features

Besides the upgrades and new features, Google mentioned a few key privacy-related features, for instance, Auto-delete that will automatically delete data after 18 months unless you do it before the stipulated time. There are new Password Manager upgrades as well- the ‘Import Passwords’ tool that will allow users to import passwords from other password managers; while ‘Alert Password’ will alert users if any of their passwords are jeopardised in a third-party breach. In such a case, Google Assistant will help navigate directly. There is a “Delete last 15 minutes” feature as well that you can use to delete your recent search history. Meanwhile ‘Locked Folder’ for photos and videos is added that will require your password or fingerprint to open folders.

Other mentions include- MUM (Multitask Unified Model) which will enable results that accurately answer a conversational query, Google Maps AR view feature to enable pointing at places instantly, Shopping Graph for Google Shop, Little Patterns feature for Google Photos.

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