Duplex Is Officially Here

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Duplex Is Officially Here

Time after time we’ve seen Google Duplex in the news, but it’s always been just on the horizon for the mass market.  Well here’s some news that isn’t just a tease: Duplex is now on your phone!

Pixels Now Have Duplex:

Ok, sorry to get your hopes up if you’re not team Pixel, but if you are, then this is good news for you. Google has just rolled out Duplex to Pixel phones in 43 states.  This means that if you own a Pixel and live in one of these states, you can now have your Google Assistant call on your behalf.  Looking for a restaurant reservation?  Just say “Ok Google, make a reservation at ___”.

That’s it.  Duplex will call the restaurant and take care of everything else.  Ok, it will ask you a few more details (such as for what time and for how many people), but it takes care of all the conversing on the phone.  The future is now.

Just how good is it?

Google actually received a ton of criticism after I/O last year when Duplex made its debut.  People were concerned that it mimicked a human toowell.  In June the company promised that Google Assistant would introduce itself before engaging in any conversation.  If you’ve used Google’s call screening feature before then you’re somewhat familiar with this introduction.

Duplex uses Google’s WaveNet audio processing neural network, and as such it sounds incredibly natural.  It throws “ums” into the conversation to mimic how people actually converse. While these may seem arbitrary, the VP of engineering for Google Assistant said that they are actually the key to keeping people engrossed in conversation.  Otherwise things start to feel too artificial and people hang up.

Opting Out:

While this technology is incredible, there are certainly going to be people that want nothing to do with it yet.  And as such Duplex makes it very clear that the call is automated, and informs everyone it calls that their being recorded.  If they respond with anything along the lines of “I don’t want to be recorded” or “I don’t want to speak with this” then the call is handed off to a human operator.

There’s sure to be some legal/ethical issues that arise despite this, but it’s good to at least see people are given the option to opt out.  Duplex is going to continue its rollout to other devices over time, and eventually it will just be taken for granted.  But for now its cutting edge tech and Pixel users can take advantage of it.

What are your thoughts on Duplex and its rollout?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

I/O 2019 Is Upon Us

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I/O 2019 Is Upon Us

Mark your calendars, Google 1/0 2019 has been announced!  The company’s annual developer conference will be kicking off May 7th and run though the 9th.  Google tweeted about the event yesterday, and as usual it looks like there are some exciting things on the agenda.

Flash Back To 2018:

Last year’s I/O was a particularly exciting one, and there were a few core themes behind it.  While buzz-wordy, the event revolved around the ideas of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.  We got to see demonstrations of Google’s Duplex making a phone call, as well as learning about what Android P brought to the table.  It offered improved battery life, brightness, and app suggestions to refine the mobile experience for users.

Up This Year:

Last year had a lot of interesting concepts, and this year is sure to be even more impressive.  It’s far too early to say everything that will be taking place in this year’s reveals, but there are a few things we can be certain are on the agenda.  The first of these is of course a new version of Android.  Following it’s alphabetical trend, Q is next on the roster.

We’ve talked a little about Q here before but very little has been revealed thus far.  Rumors have it that the new version will be featuring an expansive Dark Theme for battery saving and, well because dark themes are all the rage right now.  There is also discussion about a change to the android activity life cycle to include a multi-resume.  This could allow for easier interaction with multiple apps at the same time when using split screen on your phone.

Watch and Learn:

Many believe we are about to see the reveal of a Pixel Watch.  iOS has definitely been the dominant culture when it comes to accessories for your primary device, but that’s all the more reason for Google to try and match it.  No leaks have come yet regarding what it will look like but news that Google bought $40 million of smartwatch technology and researchers from Fossil is a definite hint that big things are coming.

There are also bound to be Google Assistant improvements this year, an we could see these play a big role in how the watch functions for things like speech-to-text. Duplex was demoed last year but we haven’t seen to much of it in the real world up until the last few months either.  I would predict the artificial intelligence of the Assistant opens up a few new doors this year.

Fuchsia is the Future:

And of course there is the ever prevalent mystery that is Fuchsia in development.  Said to be Android’s replacement, Fuchsia is on the rise and will likely be utilized in some demos this year.  It’s a ways off from being the new OS for smartphones, but it’s been development for a few years now and it is starting to make it’s way into the limelight.

For the fourth consecutive year the event will be held at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California.  What are you most excited about for Google I/O 2019?  Do you have any predictions about what we may see this year?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

Duplex Makes its Debut

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Duplex Makes its Debut

At Google I/O 2018 we saw a breathtaking performance on the center stage.  The world watched as Google Assistant placed a call to a hair salon and booked an appointment.  This new feature known as Duplex has been marketed as your new secretary, but unfortunately up until  now it’s just been an exciting video to watch.  Things are changing though, and Pixel 3’s are about to start seeing Duplex roll out onto their phones.

Duplex:

From a 3rd party view what was so amazing was how lifelike the conversation appeared.  Though the conversation took place between a computer and a real person, it was borderline impossible to tell which was which.  Google Assistant dialed the company’s phone number and then conversed with a receptionist on the other side.  It even went as far as to throw in lifelike “mhmm”’s. 

This was the first peek into Duplex, and since then we’ve seen the Pixel 3 elaborate on the release.  The newest flagship phone users have the option to avoid calls from unknown numbers.  They leave the dirty work of figuring out who is calling to Duplex which talks to callers and displays a transcript of the conversation to users.  The beauty of this is that you’ll never have to talk to a telemarketer again!

The Rollout begins:

Duplex has been big talk recently but that’s been it.  Now Google has announced it’s rolling out the feature to a select number of Pixel owners in select cities.  If you own a pixel and live in Atlanta, New York, Phoenix, or San Francisco then you’ll get to be one of the first beta testers.  As a Pixel 3 owner myself I’m waiting eagerly for the next wave, but it’s good to know progress is being made.

As expected there are initial limitations on the feature such as it only being able to make calls in English.  People using Duplex will be able to use it with commands as simple as “Hey Google, make a restaurant reservation”.  Yes, it would help to specify where, but the concept is that you have to do next to nothing!

Opting Out:

Google has also said that businesses can opt out of the service by toggling an option in their Google My Business account.  Or if a business answers the phone and says, “I don’t want to be recorded” (or something similar) they are opted out.  It seems Google is preparing for the inevitable backlash from businesses and people who don’t want any part of the system.

What are your thoughts on Duplex rolling out to Pixel phones?  Are you counting down the days until you can use it too?  Let us know in the comments below.

The Pixel 3 has been unveiled, and it looks sweet!

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The Pixel 3 has been unveiled, and it looks sweet!

We’ve talked about the Pixel 3 again and again here at RootJunky, and there have been far too many rumors and leaks about it over the past few months.  I’m happy to say that’s all come to a close.  Not because I don’t like writing about it, but because the Pixel 3 has officially been released. Earlier today Google unveiled the new phone, and the preorders have begun rolling in.

The Hype Recap:

Before we get in to what the Pixel 3 and 3XL actually are, let’s take a second to remember how much build up there was about these devices.  There were images leaked on the XDADeveloper forum showing a notched display with two cameras, as well as a glass back for wireless charging.  But hardware leaks aside, what was really interesting about this phone’s build up was the rumors about rumors.

After we’d all sat with the leaked images for a bit the news surfaces that Google was reaching out to popular YouTuber’s asking to use their clips bashing the leaked design.  The result of this was the people began thinking Google had intentionally leaked images so that they could use this footage in their grand reveal of a more impressive phone.  It was a conspiracy theory for sure, but not entirely unbelievable.

Fast-forward to October 9th’s Hardware:

Skipping to today the Pixel actually dropped, and it actually doesn’t look that different from the leaked images.  Despite what some YouTuber’s may have said I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  Starting at $799, the Pixel 3 sticks to the traditional design of a split material back allowing for wireless charging (thank goodness!).  The regular phone measures in at 5.5 inches and for $100 more the XL measures in at 6.3 inches.

Pixel phones have been notorious for having great cameras, and that trend isn’t stopping with the Pixel 3. It is however deciding to avoid the current trend of a dual rear camera.  With a total of 3 cameras, one can be found on the back and two on the front.  And guess what?  For the XL these cameras are nested in a notch.  This trend seems to be sticking around for a while, and even Google’s flagship device has embraced it.  The new cameras seek to take the crown and offer incredible zoom in as well as a wide range selfie mode.

Screening the Spammers:

Remember that ground breaking release from Google I/O earlier this year called Duplex?  It seemed unreal as the Google Assistant called a barber shop, had a conversation with the receptionist, and successfully booked an appointment for its user.
Well the Pixel 3 leverages this technology to make your call screening much more enjoyable.  Using Duplex, you’ll never have to answer the phone for a telemarketer again.

The Pixel 3 can answer itself and provide a real-time transcript to you of whatever the caller says. Duplex prompts them on the other side of the line asking them to identify themselves and let you know if the call is urgent, and as they talk you can see the text appear on your screen.
Then if you want to answer you can, or you can select from premade responses to keep the conversation going and get more details before deciding to pick up or not.  Google Assistant really is becoming a personal secretary.

I’m really excited for the Pixel 3 to be out and will be getting my hands on it as soon as I can. What are your thoughts on the new device?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google I/O, Until Next Year

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Google I/O, Until Next Year

Well Google I/O is a wrap everyone, and if you tuned in then hopefully you left with some cool takeaways.  If not then don’t worry, that’s what we’re here for.  When the conference first kicked off we wrote about day 1 and its highlights, but obviously the fun didn’t stop there.  The following is a crash course selection of (in my opinion) the most important and amazing takeaways for and android junky.

Flutter:

If you’re an android developer, then your undoubtedly familiar with Java and segueing in to Kotlin.  You might not have heard about Flutter before though.  It’s Google’s mobile app SDK for easily creating high quality apps on both Android and iOS devices.  Written in Dart (a language developed by Google as well), Flutter works with existing code and is used to develop at ridiculously high speeds.  Here’s a great video from Google I/O that goes more in depth on how to use Flutter to enhance your material design.

Duplex:

Now this one blows my mind, and I know I’m not alone here.  When you think of a sci-fi future it’s reasonable if computers playing our personal secretaries pops into your mind.  This seems to be the present now. 

I’m very interested to see how Duplex functions successfully in real world applications, but the Google 2018 keynote showed a quick performance of the Google Assistant booking a haircut appointment for Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai.  From an outsider’s view the conversation was impossible to distinguish from an everyday conversation between two people, and when it was done the Google Assistant confirmed to Sundar that the appointment had been booked and added to his calendar.  It’s only a matter of time before this is both client and server side so that duplex will be having conversations with itself to schedule our days, and that’s pretty wild.

Android P Beta:

Yes, I know we discussed android P in the last blog on Google I/O.  But you’ll have to bear with me because it’s happening again! As of this week the Android P beta is available on Pixel devices as well as 7 other flagship devices.  Android P brings all kinds of cool new features to the table.  A lot of these revolve around predicting what you the user are about to do.  There’s an adaptive battery that adjusts your screen’s brightness and what apps are running in an effort to both improve your experience and conserve precious battery power.

My personal favorite feature of P is Wi-Fi RTT.  Round Trip Time takes our current location services capabilities and amplifies them.  Essentially by triangulating between multiple Wi-fi access points nearby, a user’s position can be calculated within about a meter.  Just use your imagination for what applications this could come in handy for!  For more on Android P you can read our past posts or watch some Google I/O talks.

There’s lots more to take away from Google I/O, and honestly I’m cutting myself off here because otherwise I’d end up writing a paragraph or two about every session that I watched from the entire conference.  It’s a great year to be an android developer or even just own an android device.

What interested you the most from the conference?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

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