Visual Snapshots Now Broadly Rolling Out in Google Assistant

Visual Snapshots in Google Assistant

Yesterday, Google announced Visual Snapshots were coming to Google Assistant.  These tidbits of information about your day or events, strikingly similar to what use to be offered by Google Now prior to it becoming Google Feed, are aimed at providing you snapshots of information throughout your day.  Now these new snapshots are widely rolling out to Google Assistant and, chances are, you likely have them already.

Accessed via Google Assistant and pressing the tray icon, Visual Snapshots give you a glimpse at your calendar, map information to your next appointment, weather information, and the ability to track travel and other reminders all within a single pane.  You also have a top carousel that give you one touch access to things like Spotify, making a phone call and setting a reminder.

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Google Flutter Release Candidate 1 Now Available

Flutter Logo

Google’s new cross platform mobile SDK, Google Flutter, has had its first Release Candidate build released for developers to use and test.  Flutter was announced way back in February at Mobile World Congress and it is aimed to give developers a leg up in developing mobile apps that are native for both Android and iOS.

The beauty of Flutter is that it comes packing its own rendering engine and framework which, in essence, bypasses the native UI frameworks in both platforms.  This is not something new for developers, especially game developers who have used different rendering engines.  This allows for significant performance increases (particularly on Android).  When you compile the app with the available Android and iOS SDKs, you get the appropriate app & framework for the respective platform.

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Google Photos Turns 3 Years Old

Google Photos 3.10.0.177481342

Believe it or not, Google Photos is now three years old.  The photo library app that syncs photos with your Photos online storage, continues to evolve rapidly and remains one of the most popular Google apps out there.  It makes keeping a sync’d copy of your photos and videos online pretty seamless and if you use the High Quality sync setting, doesn’t even consume any of your Google Drive quota (which is great for photos under 16MP).

Photos was announced as part of the original Pixel launch and those devices, as well as the subsequent Pixel 2 lineup, can store photos in original quality without using Drive space.  Other devices can upload in original too, but you start using up your storage.  It was also one of the first apps that has a serious AI integration from Google, with the app able to identify people, pets and look at the overall quality of the photo to recommend automatic improvements (referred to commonly as Auto Awesome), make animations and movies, and create photo books of your favorite photos.

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Google Photos Favorites Feature To Roll Out This Week

Google Photos for Android

It has been a long time coming but Google Photos is finally going to give you the ability to mark photos in your library as favorites.  The new features, which the Google Photos team announced via Twitter, is a cloud-side update and will be rolling out to all accounts throughout this week.  Once you have it, you will be able to view a photo and will see a small star icon as you view that photo.  Tap that star, that photo gets marked as a favorite.

As part of this feature, there will now be a new Favorites album in the menu and in your Albums view in Google Photos.  That way you will be able to quickly find them in your library.

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Google News App Finally Arrives in the Play Store

Google News for Android

After being announced last week at Google I/O, the new Google News app is now available in both the Google Play Store for Android users as well as Apple’s App Store for iPhone users.  While the app makes the AI-driven news app available, the Google News site is still hasn’t been updated at the time of this posting.

As you may recall, the new Google News app has an entirely new look and feel, drawing heavily on Material Design for its overall look with lots of visual content for news articles.  It is a far cry from the nearly all text-based version of the old News app.

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Apple Seeds Fifth iOS 11.4 Beta to Testers

Control Center in iOS 11

A fifth and likely final beta build of iOS 11.4 arrived yesterday for those who are in the Apple Beta program.  The update doesn’t bring any new features to the platform other than what has already been discussed but does bring a few fixes.

The update weighs in at 2.2GB, indicating that this is the full build and is likely a release candidate build.  For those new to beta testing, release candidates are generally the build that a developer wants to release as the general availability (GA) release.  In other words, they feel their work is done and barring a show stopping bug being found, this should be the build everyone sees when 11.4 is released.

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Google Photos New Color Pop Feature Now Starting to Roll Out

Google Photos for Android

The new Color Pop feature that was highlighted this past week at Google I/O in Google Photos is now starting to roll out to users.  The feature takes an image in your photos library that has a bright colored subject and then turns the background black & white.

The feature, at least right now, is 100% driving by Google Assistant, the AI built into Google Photos.  That means you can’t force the issue.  If the AI finds a photo in your library that meets its criteria, it will provide you the photo in the Assistant tab where you can save it to your library.

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New Google Assistant Voices Now Available on Android and iOS

Google Assistant Voices for Android

Yesterday at Google I/O it was announced that Google Assistant would be receiving six new voices that you could use to suit your personal preferences with as you interact with it on your phone or Home devices.  Just a day later, those new voice models are now live in the Assistant or Home app on your Android phone.

You can find the new voice models under Settings>Preferences>Assistant Voice.  There you can listen to a script read by each of the voices to pick the one you like the best.  There are three male and three female voices to chose from in addition to the stock male and female voices that have already been in Assistant.

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