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By 18 May 2017 | Categories: news

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Last night saw Google kick off its annual developer conference, I/O 2017, in California. As with last year's event, much of the focus on Day One centred around Artificial Intelligence (AI), with the tools, devices and software the company has been working on being showcased. As always, the number of announcements are too many to detail in one piece, but we have compiled all the significant ones in one nice roundup for you to digest. Enjoy. 

A milestone

The company's CEO, Sundar Pichai, began the first keynote for Google I/O 2017, also making a pretty big announcement, with Android having passed the two billion mark in terms of monthly active devices. 

This means that for every fourth person in the world, there is a product which features a Google service or some kind of software. Moreover, the company's tools are actively being put to use.

Assistant on iOS

One of the big announcements from last night saw Google Assistant make its way to iOS. To that end it will be available on your iPhone should it be compatible with iOS 9.1 or higher. 

We're a little unsure of why Apple allowed Google Assitant to port over to the iPhone, especially as the company has plans for its own tool, Siri. Nevertheless, it means that Google Assistant has the capacity to work on even more devices, with the current total sitting at about 100 million. Whether or not consumers stick with Siri or make the jump to Google Assistant in coming months, should be interesting to track.  

Google Lens

Speaking of software, Google Lens made its official debut last night. It's a mobile tool that will allow users to aim their smartphone or tablet camera at a real-life object and get more information about it. 

The demo showcased Google Lens focusing on an image of flower, then bringing up information about said flower, but Pichai also mentioned that Google Lens could be a lot smarter than just point and capture. To that end, Google lens was shown interacting with a network router, with the model and password number being in camera frame, with the mobile device then automatically connecting to the router. 

On top of that, Google Lens also works in conjunction with Google Assistant, which comes in handy when deciphering foreign text. Again in the keynote demo, Google Lens was pointed to Japanese text, with Google Assistant helping to translate it and then  make suggestions or give more information based off that.    

Google Cloud TPUs

Helping its AI plans is  Google’s announcement of its second-generation Tensor Processing Units (TPUs), which are designed to assist with machine learning workloads. 

Each one of these TPUs can deliver roughly 180 teraflops of floating-point performance, says Google, and when placed in one of their TPU Pods (which contains 64 TPUs in total), can deliver an estimated 11.5 petaflops of processing power. As such, Google's machine learning roadmap is rolling along at a rapid pace. 

Play Protect

A particularly hot button topic at the moment, data security got a nod at Google I/O last night, with the company unveiling its Play Protect toolset, designed to give users greater transparency in terms of the level of on their device. 

Similar to Samsung KNOX and BlackBerry's DTEK, Play Protect is an app that runs in the background, and is downloaded and updated automatically via the Play Store to routinely check the integrity of other installed apps on one's phone or tablet. Whether or not that functionality will be extended to other Google devices, like Google Home for example, is unclear for now.  

WorldSense and VR

On the Virtual Reality (VR) front, Google debuted a new headset tracking tool in the form of WorldSense. It's said to deliver a greater deal of accuracy when users move while wearing their VR headset of choice. What makes it noteworthy is that it will not require the use of any additional external sensors, which could prove handy, especially as VR headsets and their upgrades are pretty expensive as is. 

Google and its Daydream VR team are also working on building standalone headsets with other manufacturers, detailing partnerships with HTC and Lenovo. We only saw simple renderings of the devices for the moment, but should see fully fledged versions soon, perhaps at IFA in September.

More to come?

It’s unclear if Google has any more big announcements planned for the next couple of days during I/O 2017, but the ones from the keynote should prove more than enough to digest as the company's AI, VR and cloud computing plans begin to take shape.

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