Does Google’s Duplex violate two-party consent laws?

Google’s Duplex, which calls businesses on your behalf and imitates a real human, ums and ahs included, has sparked a bit of controversy among privacy advocates. Doesn’t Google recording a person’s voice and sending it to a data center for analysis violate two-party consent law, which requires everyone in a conversation to agree to being recorded? The answer isn’t immediately clear, and Google’s silence isn’t helping. Let’s take California’s law as the example, since that’s the state where Google is based and where it used the system. Penal Code section 632 forbids recording any “confidential communication” (defined more or less as any non-public conversation) without the consent of all parties. (The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press has a good state-by-state guide to these laws.) Google has provided very little in the way of details about how Duplex actually works, so attempting to answer this question
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What we know about Google’s Duplex demo so far

The highlight of Google’s I/O keynote earlier this month was the reveal of Duplex, a system that can make calls to set up a salon appointment or a restaurant reservation for you by calling those places, chatting with a human and getting the job done. That demo drew lots of laughs at the keynote, but after the dust settled, plenty of ethical questions popped up because of how Duplex tries to fake being human. Over the course of the last few days, those were joined by questions about whether the demo was staged or edited after Axios asked Google a few simple questions about the demo that Google refused to answer. We have reached out to Google with a number of very specific questions about this and have not heard back. As far as I can tell, the same is true for other outlets that have contacted the company.
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YouTube revamps its Red subscription service to offer standalone music streaming

Like Google’s messaging focus, YouTube’s efforts to spin out successful streaming and music products has felt confusing and haphazard. Now the company is simplifying and consolidating that play by decoupling the music and film components with the launch of a new service. YouTube Music is, as the name suggests, a music streaming service that will launch on May 22. Aimed squarely at competing with Apple Music and Spotify, it’ll cost $9.99 per month following a free trial period as is standard in the industry. An ad-supported version will be available for free also, but it won’t include premium features such as background listening, song downloads and music discovery features. (It’s worth noting that this new service will replace the existing Google Play Music service.) YouTube Music was originally part of YouTube Red, the company’s subscription video streaming service, and though it is being decoupled, customers will be
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Watch every panel from TC Sessions: Robotics

Last week at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall, TechCrunch held its second TC Sessions: Robotics event. It was a full day of panels and demos, featuring the top minds in robotics, artificial intelligence and venture capital, along with some of the most cutting-edge demonstrations around. If you weren’t able to attend, though, no worries; we’ve got the full event recorded for posterity, along with breakdowns of what you missed below.

Getting A Grip on Reality: Deep Learning and Robot Grasping

It turns out grasping objects is really hard for a robot. According to Ken Goldberg, professor and chair of the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Department, it’s about forces and torques. He and TechCrunch Editor-in-Chief Matthew Panzarino also discussed what Goldberg calls “fog robotics.” Goldberg differentiates it from “cloud robotics” in that “you don’t want to do everything in the cloud because of latency issues and bandwidth limitations, quality of
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Gfycat starts rolling out 360 degree GIF content

GIFs offer a way to compress a ton of information into a small amount of space, and while Gfycat has positioned itself as more of a short-form video centric platform, it’s going to take a step further to see what a step beyond a standard GIF looks like. The company today said it would be rolling out 360 degree GIF-like short form videos, which will allow users to plant themselves in the middle of what is effectively a looping video like a GIF. While that presents much more of a challenge to users for generating content, CEO Richard Rabbat said the proliferation of tools like 3D cameras and content from the actual producers like video studios would make it an increasingly popular way to interact with short-form content in a compact form factor. “We’ve always thought that GIFs are amazing from many perspectives,” Rabbat said. “That goes beyond whether you’re
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The new AI-powered Google News app is now available for iOS

Google teased a new version of its News app with AI smarts at its I/O event last week, and today that revamped app landed for iOS and Android devices in 127 countries. The redesigned app replaces the previous Google Play Newsstand app. The idea is to make finding and consuming news easier than ever, whilst providing an experience that’s customized to each reader and supportive of media publications. The AI element is designed to learn from what you read to help serve you a better selection of content over time, while the app is presented with a clear and clean layout. Opening the app brings up the tailored ‘For You’ tab which acts as a quick briefing, serving up the top five stories “of the moment” and a tailored selection of opinion articles and longer reads below it. The next section — ‘Headlines’ — dives more deeply into the latest
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Google’s Pixel Buds learn some new tricks

I/O may have ended, but Google’s still trickling out news at a steady rate. The latest update comes from one of the more unexpected corners of the Googleverse. Pixel Buds, the company’s hotly anticipated and lukewarmly received bluetooth headphones are getting a nice software update.

In a blog post today, the company highlighted some new features that should help make the earbuds a bit more well-rounded.

At the top of the list is improved bluetooth pairing. It’s not a hardware upgrade, so users may still run into some of the issues the product got dinged for early on, but not it’s a lot easier to switch between synced hardware. Choosing Pixel Buds from the drop down menu on a connected computer will swap the connection from the current to new device.

The headphones are also getting a couple new touch gestures. Triple tapping the right earbud will turn the headphones

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Blogger gets a spring cleaning

Blogger, the blogging platform Google acquired back in 2003, is somehow still alive and kicking, even though few people remember it still exists. But alive it is — and it’s even getting some updates to its Google+ integration that will see all those 20 people still on Google+ rejoice. After a year of inactivity, Blogger’s own news blog sprung to live this morning with a brief update that lays out the changes. Google calls this a ‘spring cleaning,’ and we all know what that means: shutting down features. You probably don’t care, but gone from Blogger are support for third-party gadgets, the Next Blog feature, and the polling widget. Soon, OpenID support will be gone as well and Textcube.com is also shutting down. What is Textcube.com, you ask? It’s a Korean blogging service Google acquired back in 2008. But there are also new features, which
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Google Compute Engine now offers VMs with up to 3844GB of memory

Sometimes, you just need more RAM. That’s especially true when you want to run memory-hungry enterprise applications like SAP’s HANA database or high-performance computing workloads. Until now, if you wanted the Google Compute Engine to run applications like that, your options topped out at 624GB of memory. Starting today, though, the company is going beyond that by introducing three new tiers on top of this that top out at 3844GB and 160 virtual compute cores. These three new machine types, dubbed “n1-ultramem,” join Google’s existing “n1-megamem” machines. Unsurprisingly, this kind of performance comes at a price. Running the “low-end” machine with 40 cores and 938GB of RAM for a month will set you back just over $3,221. The high-end machine, with 160 cores and 3844GB of RAM, is yours for $12,885.1716 per month. You can see the hourly prices below: With these new machines, Google now matches the top-end
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What Happens in an Internet Minute in 2018?

In your everyday life, a minute might not seem like much. But when it comes to the vast scale of the internet, a minute of time goes much further than you ever could have imagined. That’s because the internet has a degree of scale that our linear human brains are unaccustomed to operating on.

An Internet Minute in 2018

Today’s infographic is from Lori Lewis and Chadd Callahan of Cumulus Media, and it shows the activity taking place on various platforms such as Facebook or Google in each 60 second span. It really helps put an internet minute in perspective. What Happens in an Internet Minute in 2018?

Just a Minute, Please

The numbers for these services are so enormous that they can only be shown using the 60 second time scale. Any bigger, and our brains can’t even process these massive quantities in any useful capacity. Here are just a few key numbers scaled to a
2018 vs. 2018
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Google and Levi’s ‘connected’ jacket will let you know when your Uber is here

Remember Project Jacquard? Two years ago, Google showed off its “connected” jean jacket designed largely for bike commuters who can’t fiddle with their phone. The jacket launched this past fall, in partnership with Levi’s, offering a way for wearers to control music, screen phone calls, and get directions with a tap or brush of the cuff. Today, Google is adding more functionality to this piece of smart clothing, including support for ride-sharing alerts, Bose’s “Aware Mode,” and location saving. The features arrived in the Jacquard platform 1.2 update which hit this morning, and will continue to roll out over the week ahead.   It’s sort of odd to see this commuter jacket adding ride-sharing support, given that its primary use case, so far, has been to offer a safer way to interact with technology when you can’t use your phone – namely, while biking, as showcased
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Say hello to Google One

Google is revamping its consumer storage plans today by adding a new $2.99/month tier for 200 GB of storage and dropping the price of its 2 TB plan from $19.99/month to $9.99/month (and dropping the $9.99/month 1 TB plan). It’s also rebranding these storage plans (but not Google Drive itself) as ‘Google One.’ Going forward, you’ll also be able to share your storage quota with up to five family members. That by itself would be interesting, given how easy it is to max out 100 GB with 4K videos and high-res images these days, but there is one other feature here that explains the new brand name: free one-tap access to Google Experts for help with any Google consumer product and service. That access to live experts — not some barely functional AI chatbot — comes with every Google One plan, including the $1.
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The UK and USA need to extend their “special relationship” to technology development

The UK and the USA have always had an enduring bond, with diplomatic, cultural and economic ties that have remained firm for centuries.

We live in an era of profound change, and are living with technologies set to change things ever faster. If Britain and America work together to develop these technologies for the good of mankind, in a way that is open and free, yet also safe and good for our citizens, we can maintain the global lead our nations have enjoyed in the fields of innovation.

Over past months we have seen some very significant strides forward in this business relationship. All of the biggest US companies have made decisions to invest in the UK. Apple is developing a new HQ in the

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Google Clips gets better at capturing candids of hugs and kisses (which is not creepy, right?)

Google Clips’ AI-powered “smart camera” just got even smarter, Google announced today, revealing improved functionality around Clips’ ability to automatically capture specific moments — like hugs and kisses. Or jumps and dance moves. You know, in case you want to document all your special, private moments in a totally non-creepy way. I kid, I kid! Well, not entirely. Let me explain. Look, Google Clips comes across to me as more of a proof-of-concept device that showcases the power of artificial intelligence as applied to the world of photography rather than a breakthrough consumer device. I’m the target market for this camera — a parent and a pet owner (and look how cute she is) — but I don’t at all have a desire for a smart camera designed to capture those tough-to-photograph moments, even though neither my kid nor my pet will sit still for pictures. I’ve tried to
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YouTube rolls out new tools to help you stop watching

Google’s YouTube is the first streaming app that will actually tell users to stop watching. The company at its Google I/O conference this week introduced a series of new controls for YouTube that will allow users to set limits on their viewing, and then receive reminders telling them to “take a break.” The feature is rolling out now in the latest version of YouTube’s app along with others that limit YouTube’s ability to send notifications, and soon, one that gives users an overview of their binge behavior so they can make better-informed decisions about their viewing habits. With “Take a Break,” available from YouTube’s mobile app Settings screen, users can set a reminder to appear every 15, 30, 60, 90 or 180 minutes, at which point the video will pause. You can then choose to dismiss the reminder and keep watching, or close the app. The setting is optional,
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Google Pay’s app adds boarding passes, tickets, p2p payments and more

Google Pay got a big upgrade at Google I/O this week. At a breakout session, Google announced a series of changes to its payments platform, recently rebranded from Android Pay, including support for peer-to-peer payments in the main Google Pay app; online payments support in all browsers; the ability to see all payments in a single place, instead of just those in-store; and support for tickets and boarding passes in Google Pay’s APIs, among several other things. Some of Google Pay’s expansions were previously announced, like its planned support for more browsers and devices, for example. However, the company detailed a host of other features at I/O that are now rolling out across the Google Pay platform. One notable addition is support for peer-to-peer payments which is being added to the Google Pay app in the U.S. and the U.K. And that transaction history, along with users’
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Duplex shows Google failing at ethical and creative AI design

Google CEO Sundar Pichai milked the woos from a clappy, home-turf developer crowd at its I/O conference in Mountain View this week with a demo of an in-the-works voice assistant feature that will enable the AI to make telephone calls on behalf of its human owner. The so-called ‘Duplex’ feature of the Google Assistant was shown calling a hair salon to book a woman’s hair cut, and ringing a restaurant to try to book a table — only to be told it did not accept bookings for less than five people. At which point the AI changed tack and asked about wait times, earning its owner and controller, Google, the reassuring intel that there wouldn’t be a long wait at the elected time. Job done. The voice system deployed human-sounding vocal cues, such as ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ — to make the “conversational experience more comfortable“, as Google couches
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Google used improv rules to deal with a farting Assistant

Listen, it’s late on day two of Google I/O and we’re all getting a bit punchy here. During a late-afternoon panel on design and Assistant, Google Principal Designer Ryan Germick explained that the company used improv skills to figure out how to build out the AI’s personality — and answer some of life’s more difficult questions.

One question Assistant gets “more often than you’d expect”: “did you fart?” For one thing, farts are always funny. For another, what’s the point of having a smart assistant if you can’t blame it for your various bodily odors?

Germick explained that the company went through various iterations of answers to the fart question, starting with something along the lines of “of course I didn’t, I don’t have a body.” That, it turns out, is not a particularly satisfying answer. Instead, the company embraced the “artful dodge,” using what anyone who’s taken

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Google previews what’s next for Android Auto

Over the course of the last few days, Google teased a few updates to Android Auto, its platform for bringing its mobile operating system to the car. At its I/O developer conference, the company showed off what the next version of Android Auto will look like and how developers can start preparing their applications for it. Earlier this week, Google announced that Volvo would build Android Auto directly into its head units, making it one of the first car manufacturers to do so. Typically, Android Auto essentially mirrors your phone — with a special on-screen interface designed for the car. By building Android Auto right into the car, you won’t need a phone. Instead, it’ll be a stand-alone experience and thanks to that, the car manufacturer can also offer a number of custom elements or maybe even support multiple screens. As the Android Auto team noted during its I/O session,
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