All posts in “Google”

Google brings six-second video previews to mobile search

Google announced a major update to its mobile search results pages today. Whenever your query brings up a video, Google will now show you a silent six-second clip to help you decide if it’s actually a video you want to see.

This will work for the vast majority of videos on the web today — including, but not limited to, YouTube. Indeed, as Emily Moxley, Google’s director of product management for this project, told me, any video on the web is eligible for inclusion, though Google may not have a preview for some of the newest videos available yet because it takes the servers a bit of time to build the previews.

Even though video is getting more and more popular, it’s no secret that it’s not always the most convenient way to get information. A thumbnail isn’t going to give you a lot of information about what the actual video is going to look like, after all (and video producers have gotten pretty smart about which thumbnails will generate the most clicks…).

Ideally, Google’s new feature will remove at least some of this ambiguity so you know that you won’t be wasting time on some boring gongoozling video when you’re looking for the real thing. Google’s canonical example involves looking for salsa dancing videos. Some videos may simply show you professionals at work, while others will actually teach you the steps.

Unsurprisingly, Google decided to use some of its machine learning smarts to enable this feature. That’s because the first six seconds of any given video aren’t usually the most representative ones. So Google’s algorithm actually analyzes the whole video and then decides which six-second clip to pick. While the team didn’t want to delve into the details of how this algorithm decides what to show, Google product manager Prashant Baheti told me that the algorithm looks at what’s in the different scenes in a video, where those scenes start and end, and which scenes best represent the video.

What the algorithm doesn’t do, though, is look at your query. Unlike the previously launched Featured Snippet, which directly links you to the relevant answer to one of your questions in a video, the snippets are always the same. Moxley noted that this is something the company is looking at, though.

It’s worth noting that these previews do not feature any ads and by default, they will only play when you are using a WiFi connection. If you want, you can enable video previews on mobile networks, too, or even completely opt out of them in the settings for both the Google app and Google Chrome for Android.

For now, this feature is only available on mobile, both through the Google app and in Chrome. It’s not available on the desktop yet. A Google spokesperson argued that this is because the company now focuses on its mobile users, though I can’t think of any major limitation of the desktop platform that would prevent the company from rolling this out across all platforms.

Google Home now works with Spotify free accounts


For all the talk of how voice assistants could be the future of IoT or computing in general, the only consistently engaging use of home assistants like Echo or Google Home seems to be audio playback.

Today, Google is making it a bit easier for the cheapos to get in on the action, as it’s beginning to roll out support for Spotify free accounts on its Home platform. Google announced the integration was coming back at its Google I/O conference.

Currently, the company’s home assistant supports Google Play Music Free and Premium, Spotify Free and Premium, Pandora, YouTube Music, TuneIn and iHeartRadio. Deezer and SoundCloud support should be on the way soon as support for them was also announced at I/O.

Life in the free lane isn’t as glamorous on Home with Spotify, as there are a few differences in the way you can use the service. First off, you won’t be able to get the Home to play specific songs, albums or artists, instead you’ll have to settle for selecting music by mood, genre or one of the Spotify-curated playlists.

Things get dialed in a little bit more when you’re requesting Google Assistant to play Spotify on a Chromecast audio-enabled device, in which case you’ll be able to request specific playlists or artists and hear the applicable jams on shuffle. If you’re casting to a TV, your experience should be pretty comparable to what you get on Premium, with abilities to request songs, playlists, artists and albums all supported.

Check out the full spread on what you can and can’t do with Spotify Free on Google Home here.

Also, obligatory:

[embedded content]

Google just gave Docs the major overhaul you’ve been waiting for

Docs are much more useful for group work now.
Docs are much more useful for group work now.

Image: Mayo/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Google is introducing a slew of new features in an overhaul to its web-based Docs, Sheets, and Slides tools, which could make working on and editing a group project online even easier.  

Users will now be able to streamline multiple rounds of edits within the same Doc, cutting through the clutter that inevitably piles up on shared pages. You’ll also finally be able to give suggestions from mobile devices, just in case you’re struck by inspiration on the go or have to quickly give input on new changes remotely.    

The new features were outlined in a new Keyword blog post, which showed off multiple use cases where the tools will likely come in handy IRL. 

The biggest new features come with the organization of a group Doc. You’ll now be able to name separate versions of the same file, which should be a helpful way to clarify which versions are final and which are still in progress. You can check out how that could be valuable in the GIF below, which shows off the new capability to only display the newly-namable versions of a Doc.  

Image: google

With the new features, you’ll also be able to preview “clean” versions of a Doc for easier reading and review, and accept or reject all edits with one command to save time approving every little thing. Most helpfully, you’ll be able to access the suggestions tool from mobile devices using the “three dot” menu.

Google’s also introducing some new add-ons and templates for its productivity suite, making it easier for users to quickly draft documents like NDAs in the cloud. Partners include LegalZoom and Docusign, LucidChart, PandaDoc, EasyBib, and Supermetrics. Organizations will also be able to create their own personalized templates with add-ons for internal tasks. 

Finally, there’s also a new Google Cloud Search feature that uses machine learning to find relevant info across the Google ecosystem, but that’s only available for G Suite Business customers. 

Https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads%2fvideo uploaders%2fdistribution thumb%2fimage%2f80931%2fb7a75980 52d6 4805 a0b6 6a02c9d9f707

Google Maps just added a Q&A feature for Android users

Google announced today the addition of a “Questions & answers” section in Google Maps for Android and mobile Search. 

The new feature will be pretty easy to use. Just search for the place you’re headed to in Google Maps and open the listing location. From there, scroll down to the “Questions & answers” section.

Questions & answers will let you add your own question, answer someone else’s question, or upvote a question already posted with a thumbs up. Questions with the most upvotes will show up at the top of the list so the majority of people coming to the section see it. 

Post a question about a business and get notified when it's answered.

Post a question about a business and get notified when it’s answered.

Image: google

The new section isn’t just for customers or visitors, though. Business owners can add their own frequently asked questions so future patrons won’t need to post in the first place. They also get a notification when questions are posted about their location so they can answer it most accurately. 

And, conveniently, users also get a notification every time one of their questions is answered. 

The feature is rolling out to Google Maps on Android across the world. So make sure you’re running the latest version of Google Maps and keep your eyes peeled for the update. And start enjoying your adventures with a little more information. 

Https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads%2fvideo uploaders%2fdistribution thumb%2fimage%2f81188%2fdf183802 760e 45ee bef3 8bd995b57149

Google Home is now officially a voice-controlled telephone

Https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads%2fvideo uploaders%2fdistribution thumb%2fimage%2f1704%2f0854ca90 c337 4327 a6f9 655201840af7

You now have no excuse to not call your mom more often. Google announced hands-free calling for its Google Home smart speaker back in May, and now the feature is finally rolling out to users in the U.S. and Canada. 

With a simple “OK Google, call…” voice command, you can immediately phone millions of businesses and personal contacts for free over Wi-Fi. If you’re still clinging onto your landline, you might as well throw it out right now.

More than just hands-free calling, the feature leverages the power of Home’s built-in Google Assistant, which can identify individual voices so it knows when you or someone else like significant other is making a call request.

For example, if you say “OK Google, call my mom,” the Assistant will understand that you want to call your mom and not your partner’s. It’s pretty smart and really demonstrates how powerful Google’s artificial intelligence is.

Similarly, you don’t even need to have a specific business’s phone number saved in your Google Contacts for hands-free calling to work. You could say “OK Google, call the nearest pizzeria” and it’ll use your location to figure it out.

Google says people receiving calls from Home will see “Unknown” or “No Caller ID” show up. But they’re working to get your connected phone number to display by the end of the year. If you use Google Voice or Project Fi you can opt-in to display your number within the Google Home app.

We’ve yet to try the hands-free calling feature so we can’t say how well it works, but if it’s anything like the voice calling feature on Amazon’s Echo, it should be pretty sweet.

Https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads%2fvideo uploaders%2fdistribution thumb%2fimage%2f1944%2f6e0bed34 7886 4c07 85dc 0baf265cd33b