Author Archives: Molly

Ask a Techspert: What’s breaking my text conversations?

Not to brag, but I have a pretty excellent group chat with my friends. We use it to plan trips, to send happy birthdays and, obviously, to share lots and lots of GIFs. It’s the best — until it’s not. We don’t all have the same kind of phones; we’ve got both Android phones and iPhones in the mix. And sometimes, they don’t play well together. Enter “green bubble issues” — things like, missing read receipts and typing indicators, low-res photos and videos, broken group chats…I could go on describing the various potential communication breakdowns, but you probably know what I’m talking about. Instead, I decided to ask Google’s Elmar Weber: What’s the problem with messaging between different phone platforms?

First, can you tell me what you do at Google?

I lead several engineering organizations including the team that builds Google’s Messages app, which is available on most Android phones today.

OK, then you’re the perfect person to talk to! So my first question: When did this start being a problem? I remember wayback when I had my first Android phone, I would text iPhone friends…and it was fine.

Texting has been around for a long time. Basic SMS texting — which is what you’re talking about here — is 30 years old. SMS, which means Short Message Service, was originally only 160 characters. Back then you couldn’t do things like send photos or reactions or read receipts. In fact, mobile phones weren’t made for messaging, they were designed for making phone calls. To send a message you actually had to hit the number buttons to get to the letters that you’d have to spell out. But people started using it a ton, and it sort of exploded. So this global messaging industry took off. MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) was then introduced in the early 2000s, which let people send photos and videos for the first time. But that came with a lot of limitations too.

Got it. Then the messaging apps all started building their own systems to support modern messaging features like emoji reactions and typing indicators, because SMS/MMS were created long before those things were even dreamed of?

Yes, exactly.

I guess…we need a new SMS?

Well the new SMS is RCS, which stands for Rich Communication Services. It enables things like high-resolution photo and video sharing, read receipts, emoji reactions, better security and privacy with end-to-end encryption and more. Most major carriers support RCS, and Android users have been using it for years.

How long has RCS been around?

Version one of RCS was released December 15, 2008.

Who made it?

RCS isn’t a messaging app like Messages or WhatsApp — it’s an industry-wide standard. Similar to other technical standards (USB, 5G, email), it was developed by a group of different companies. In the case of RCS, it was coordinated by an association of global wireless operators, hardware chip makers and other industry players.

RCS makes messaging better, so if Android phones use this, then why are texts from iPhones still breaking? RCS sounds like an upgrade — so shouldn’t that fix everything?

There’s the hitch! So Android phones use RCS, and iPhones still don’t. iPhones still rely on SMS and MMS for conversations with Android users, which is why your group chats feel so outdated. Think of it like this: If you have two groups of people who use different spoken languages, they can communicate effectively in their respective languages to other people who speak their language, but they can’t talk to each other. And when they try to talk to one another, they have to act out what they're saying, as though they're playing charades. Now think of RCS as a magic translator that helps multiple groups speak fluently — but every group has to use the translator, and if one doesn’t, they’re each going to need to use motions again.

Do you think iPhones will start using RCS too?

I hope so! It’s not just about things like the typing indicators, read receipts or emoji reactions — everyone should be able to pick up their phone and have a secure, modern messaging experience. Anyone who has a phone number should get that, and that’s been lost a little bit because we’re still finding ourselves using outdated messaging systems. But the good news is that RCS could bring that back and connect all smartphone users, and because so many different companies and carriers are working together on it, the future is bright.

Check outAndroid.com/GetTheMessageto learn why now is the time for Apple to fix texting.

I’m excellent at planning vacations — steal my tips

I once read that the happiest part of traveling is the planning, and I couldn’t agree more. Before I board a plane, I spend hours researching and documenting the what, where and how of my vacation. Over the past two years I’ve traveled far less than usual, but this year my husband and I decided to go to Italy. It was our first time there, and one of our biggest trips since COVID hit, so I took prepping to a new level. Here’s how I, a self-proclaimed travel nerd, used Google tools to get ready for my getaway.

  1. Get everyone on board with Google Slides.

About a month before our trip, I realized we’d done it all wrong. We weren’t going to have enough time to go hiking, and we were adding unnecessary hours of driving — and with increasing gas prices, that would end up costing way too much. Telling your travel partner you want to start over mere weeks before your trip is tough, and I knew I needed to really sell it…so I made a Google Slides presentation.

A screenshot of a Google Slide presentation in edit mode. The main slide on the screen shows a photo of a Google Map route through Italy and text to the left of the map shows a run down of vacation days segmented by how “chill” they are.

One of the many slides I used to convince my husband we needed to replan our trip.

I’ve used Slides for vacation planning in the past, too — and not just to blow everything up and start over. I’ve also presented what I’ve learned about various travel destinations we’re considering to make a decision. This helps me think clearly about what I want out of a vacation; it feels a bit like I’m vision-boarding the potential trip. And apparently it’s a great selling point, because my husband was completely on board by the end of the presentation.

2. Go off the beaten path with Google Maps.

I often find myself aimlessly “wandering” around Google Maps and Street View, looking for unusually shaped peninsulas or clicking into 360-degree photos that seem impossible to have captured. It’s a great way to cure wanderlust from home, but it’s also an effective way to plan travel. This was how I found a few of our stops in Italy.

Animated GIF of a Google Map showing Italy; the cursor zooms in to Lake Garda revealing the small town of Sirmione.

A little Google Maps “wandering” led me to the town of Sirmione. It caught my eye because it’s basically an island in Italy’s Lake Garda: A narrow road connects Sirmione to the mainland; it’s so tiny that most people park on one side and walk over to the rest of the city, going by foot or golf cart.

An aerial photograph of a town surrounded by water.

An aerial shot of Sirmione taken by my husband.

It’s a place I’ve never heard of, and likely never would have gone.

This is also how we found one of our favorites hikes. The Dolomites are massive — choosing where to visit was overwhelming. But my husband noticed an interesting looking area on Google Earth called Seceda (the fact that it was labeled “Seceda famous view” on Google Maps didn’t hurt our interest either). That was enough for us to add it to our itinerary, and I couldn’t be happier that we did — see for yourself.

A photograph of a mountain landscape, with a dramatically slanted mountain in the foreground that reveals a green pasture on one side and a rocky wall on the other.

3. Take organization to another level with Google Sheets.

Using Google Sheets to organize various parts of a trip is admittedly very obvious compared to my first two tips, but here’s how I like to set things up: I have three pages in a Sheet file — one that functions as a list of things to do in each location, one that lists all of our reservation information and a last tab to collect expenses as we accumulate them while planning and during the course of the trip.

A screenshot of a Google Sheets document showing a list of cities in Italy with various attributes across the sheet listing things like dates, food options, bars, etc.

I like to think of everything listed on this first tab as something potentially worth checking out versus something that’s set in stone. This way, we don’t have to waste time while there looking things up — now if we’re ever wondering “what should we do here?” we can turn to the list for quick, easy access to already researched options.

4. Hit the Search bar…and then the Save button.

I’ve always found it easy to find amazing restaurants and shops when I want to travel, but not quite as simple to grasp what the best outdoor areas are — I want to find the best spot for a sunset, or a viewpoint for an afternoon walk. I’ve found more than a few breathtaking sights by heading to Search and simply entering the name of the city I’m visiting. On the right-hand side, there’s a Knowledge Panel about the location with information like the weather, elevation and local time. Below this is a section that says “Plan a trip,” and underneath that a camera icon next to the words “Things to do.”

And that is how I found arguably the cutest landmark in existence, this “Kiss…Please” sign in Sirmione.

A screenshot of the “Things to do” tab on google.com/travel that’s pulled up the “Kiss…please” landmark. The panel shows various photos and a save option in the right hand corner.

I saved the location straight from this panel so it automatically saved to google.com/travel, and we easily found it when we stopped in the city.

Two people standing in front of a sign that reads “kiss…please” and shows two icons kissing. The two people are also kissing. There is a lake and walkway in the background.

We had to!

5. Stay on budget with a bunch of Google tools.

Traveling is expensive, and while this was definitely a trip we planned and saved for, we were very conscious of not exceeding our budget. I used three Google tools to help us do that. First up, Google Flights. Ahead of buying our flights, I created various alerts to airports in Italy to find the best price and timing. (I also used this feature to price hotels.) Then, while we were there, we used Google Maps’ toll feature, so we could avoid more expensive routes. And of course, there’s the aforementioned Google Sheets tab to collect expenses.

All of these things helped me plan (and thoroughly enjoy planning) my trip — and obviously enjoy the trip itself. Whenever you take your next vacation, hopefully these tips are just as useful for you.

Source: Maps


I’m excellent at planning vacations — steal my tips

I once read that the happiest part of traveling is the planning, and I couldn’t agree more. Before I board a plane, I spend hours researching and documenting the what, where and how of my vacation. Over the past two years I’ve traveled far less than usual, but this year my husband and I decided to go to Italy. It was our first time there, and one of our biggest trips since COVID hit, so I took prepping to a new level. Here’s how I, a self-proclaimed travel nerd, used Google tools to get ready for my getaway.

  1. Get everyone on board with Google Slides.

About a month before our trip, I realized we’d done it all wrong. We weren’t going to have enough time to go hiking, and we were adding unnecessary hours of driving — and with increasing gas prices, that would end up costing way too much. Telling your travel partner you want to start over mere weeks before your trip is tough, and I knew I needed to really sell it…so I made a Google Slides presentation.

A screenshot of a Google Slide presentation in edit mode. The main slide on the screen shows a photo of a Google Map route through Italy and text to the left of the map shows a run down of vacation days segmented by how “chill” they are.

One of the many slides I used to convince my husband we needed to replan our trip.

I’ve used Slides for vacation planning in the past, too — and not just to blow everything up and start over. I’ve also presented what I’ve learned about various travel destinations we’re considering to make a decision. This helps me think clearly about what I want out of a vacation; it feels a bit like I’m vision-boarding the potential trip. And apparently it’s a great selling point, because my husband was completely on board by the end of the presentation.

2. Go off the beaten path with Google Maps.

I often find myself aimlessly “wandering” around Google Maps and Street View, looking for unusually shaped peninsulas or clicking into 360-degree photos that seem impossible to have captured. It’s a great way to cure wanderlust from home, but it’s also an effective way to plan travel. This was how I found a few of our stops in Italy.

Animated GIF of a Google Map showing Italy; the cursor zooms in to Lake Garda revealing the small town of Sirmione.

A little Google Maps “wandering” led me to the town of Sirmione. It caught my eye because it’s basically an island in Italy’s Lake Garda: A narrow road connects Sirmione to the mainland; it’s so tiny that most people park on one side and walk over to the rest of the city, going by foot or golf cart.

An aerial photograph of a town surrounded by water.

An aerial shot of Sirmione taken by my husband.

It’s a place I’ve never heard of, and likely never would have gone.

This is also how we found one of our favorites hikes. The Dolomites are massive — choosing where to visit was overwhelming. But my husband noticed an interesting looking area on Google Earth called Seceda (the fact that it was labeled “Seceda famous view” on Google Maps didn’t hurt our interest either). That was enough for us to add it to our itinerary, and I couldn’t be happier that we did — see for yourself.

A photograph of a mountain landscape, with a dramatically slanted mountain in the foreground that reveals a green pasture on one side and a rocky wall on the other.

3. Take organization to another level with Google Sheets.

Using Google Sheets to organize various parts of a trip is admittedly very obvious compared to my first two tips, but here’s how I like to set things up: I have three pages in a Sheet file — one that functions as a list of things to do in each location, one that lists all of our reservation information and a last tab to collect expenses as we accumulate them while planning and during the course of the trip.

A screenshot of a Google Sheets document showing a list of cities in Italy with various attributes across the sheet listing things like dates, food options, bars, etc.

I like to think of everything listed on this first tab as something potentially worth checking out versus something that’s set in stone. This way, we don’t have to waste time while there looking things up — now if we’re ever wondering “what should we do here?” we can turn to the list for quick, easy access to already researched options.

4. Hit the Search bar…and then the Save button.

I’ve always found it easy to find amazing restaurants and shops when I want to travel, but not quite as simple to grasp what the best outdoor areas are — I want to find the best spot for a sunset, or a viewpoint for an afternoon walk. I’ve found more than a few breathtaking sights by heading to Search and simply entering the name of the city I’m visiting. On the right-hand side, there’s a Knowledge Panel about the location with information like the weather, elevation and local time. Below this is a section that says “Plan a trip,” and underneath that a camera icon next to the words “Things to do.”

And that is how I found arguably the cutest landmark in existence, this “Kiss…Please” sign in Sirmione.

A screenshot of the “Things to do” tab on google.com/travel that’s pulled up the “Kiss…please” landmark. The panel shows various photos and a save option in the right hand corner.

I saved the location straight from this panel so it automatically saved to google.com/travel, and we easily found it when we stopped in the city.

Two people standing in front of a sign that reads “kiss…please” and shows two icons kissing. The two people are also kissing. There is a lake and walkway in the background.

We had to!

5. Stay on budget with a bunch of Google tools.

Traveling is expensive, and while this was definitely a trip we planned and saved for, we were very conscious of not exceeding our budget. I used three Google tools to help us do that. First up, Google Flights. Ahead of buying our flights, I created various alerts to airports in Italy to find the best price and timing. (I also used this feature to price hotels.) Then, while we were there, we used Google Maps’ toll feature, so we could avoid more expensive routes. And of course, there’s the aforementioned Google Sheets tab to collect expenses.

All of these things helped me plan (and thoroughly enjoy planning) my trip — and obviously enjoy the trip itself. Whenever you take your next vacation, hopefully these tips are just as useful for you.

Source: Maps


How a food cart gig prepared this Googler to be a designer

When Conrad Bassett-Bouchard was interviewing for a product design job at Google, there was one question he didn’t think he could answer. “I was going through my final round of interviews and I was told they would ask me to talk about my ‘cross-functional collaboration’ experience,” he says. A grad student who hadn’t worked in tech before, Conrad didn’t think he had anything to talk about. “But my recruiter said to me, ‘Well, didn’t you work on a food truck?’”

Conrad had, in fact, worked on a food truck — well, actually a food cart. And it’s an infamous one, if you live in Portland, Oregon, like Conrad and me. The food cart, which closed in recent years, specialized in grilled cheeses of every sort, shape and variety. Instead of moving locations like the typical food truck would, the cart took up residence next to a converted bus that served as seating for customers. But Conrad learned more than how to make the perfect grilled cheese: I recently caught up with him to find out about how his culinary past helped him land a role at — and succeed within — Google.

Lesson 1: How to stay cool under pressure

As a UX designer currently working on the Google Fi team, Conrad’s job is to lay out what an app or other type of software will look like in a way that’s fun and engaging for a person to use. It’s a role that requires a lot of input, from research to product teams, so he knows what it’s like to balance various needs. “You’ve got lots of different people who have lots of different perspectives,” he says. “And my job is to synthesize these perspectives and understand what they’re saying, and ultimately use that to create something people will want to use.” There’s a certain amount of pressure that can come with his role — and his job in food service prepared him for it. He remembers that on the busiest days at the cart, hoards of people would be ordering, different requests would be thrown around and the crew would have multiple grills full of multiple grilled sandwiches…all grilling simultaneously. “We’d be taking in directions from every angle,” he says. “And…honestly, that was way harder than even my busiest days at Google!”

Lesson 2: How to get into a flow state when things are fast-paced

Speaking of those hectic days…Conrad sort of liked them. “The best part of working there was definitely when we were really busy and I was on the grill — which could fit 16 sandwiches at a time.” Conrad needed to know how grilled each sandwich was, what was on them, what lettuces or sauces needed to come next. “You would get completely in the zone, and everything would just be working out,” he says. “It was definitely an adrenaline rush.” In fact, he says it feels similar to the flow state he can get into when he’s designing — a sort of perfect work mindset where he’s able to get through tasks fluidly, moving from solving one thing to the next. It doesn’t mean that the work is easy, it’s just that all the tools to find the answers are right there, at the right moment.

Lesson 3: How to find your peers, purpose…and pods

“Maybe this makes me sound like a food snob…but Portland and Austin have food carts — they stay in one place, they’re stationary,” Conrad says. “Everywhere else, you’ve got tons of food trucks…but that’s a whole different experience.” The difference, he says, is community. At a food cart, for example, other food carts will pop up — maybe a beer cart, too, or maybe a brewery will take over the empty building next store. “Then you’ll see a clothing pop-up nearby, someone adds a fire pit and a roof cover,” he says. “A little community forms around a food cart pod.” (Again, as a fellow Portlander, he’s extremely right.) “People were just really happy to be there — it wasn’t just about picking up food and walking away,” he adds. That welcoming vibe is what made Conrad want to work there, and it’s something that’s important to him at Google, too. He also mentions that the food cart owner stood out among others in the food industry; he really cared about the people who worked for him. Likewise, Conrad says, the tech industry can be cutthroat, but at Google — and especially within his direct team — he’s always felt like there’s a sense that his colleagues and managers want to take care of each other.

100 things we announced at I/O

And that’s a wrap on I/O 2022! We returned to our live keynote event, packed in more than a few product surprises, showed off some experimental projects and… actually, let’s just dive right in. Here are 100 things we announced at I/O 2022.

Gear news galore

Pixel products grouped together on a white background. Products include Pixel Bud Pro, Google Pixel Watch and Pixel phones.
  1. Let’s start at the very beginning — with some previews. We showed off a first look at the upcoming Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro[1ac74e], powered by the next version of Google Tensor
  2. We showed off an early look at Google Pixel Watch! It’s our first-ever all-Google built watch: 80% recycled stainless steel[ec662b], Wear OS, Fitbit integration, Assistant access…and it’s coming this fall.
  3. Fitbit is coming to Google Pixel Watch. More experiences built for your wrist are coming later this year from apps like Deezer and Soundcloud.
  4. Later this year, you’ll start to see more devices powered with Wear OS from Samsung, Fossil Group, Montblanc and others.
  5. Google Assistant is coming soon to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 series.
  6. The new Pixel Buds Pro use Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), a feature powered by a custom 6-core audio chip and Google algorithms to put the focus on your music — and nothing else.
  7. Silent Seal™ helps Pixel Buds Pro adapt to the shape of your ear, for better sound. Later this year, Pixel Buds Pro will also support spatial audio to put you in the middle of the action when watching a movie or TV show with a compatible device and supported content.
  8. They also come in new colors: Charcoal, Fog, Coral and Lemongrass. Ahem, multiple colors — the Pixel Buds Pro have a two-tone design.
  9. With Multipoint connectivity, Pixel Buds Pro can automatically switch between your previously paired Bluetooth devices — including compatible laptops, tablets, TVs, and Android and iOS phones.
  10. Plus, the earbuds and their case are water-resistant[a53326].
  11. …And you can preorder them on July 21.
  12. Then there’s the brand new Pixel 6a, which comes with the full Material You experience.
  13. The new Pixel 6a has the same Google Tensor processor and hardware security architecture with Titan M2 as the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.
  14. It also has two dual rear cameras — main and ultrawide lenses.
  15. You’ve got three Pixel 6a color options: Chalk, Charcoal and Sage. The options keep going if you pair it with one of the new translucent cases.
  16. It costs $449 and will be available for pre-order on July 21.
  17. We also showed off an early look at the upcoming Pixel tablet[a12f26], which we’re aiming to make available next year.

Android updates

18. In the last year, over 1 billion new Android phones have been activated.

19. You’ll no longer need to grant location to apps to enable Wi-Fi scanning in Android 13.

20. Android 13 will automatically delete your clipboard history after a short time to preemptively block apps from seeing old copied information

21. Android 13’s new photo picker lets you select the exact photos or videos you want to grant access to, without needing to share your entire media library with an app.

22. You’ll soon be able to copy a URL or picture from your phone, and paste it on your tablet in Android 13.

23. Android 13 allows you to select different language preferences for different apps.

24. The latest Android OS will also require apps to get your permission before sending you notifications.

25. And later this year, you’ll see a new Security & Privacy settings page with Android 13.

26. Google’s Messages app already has half a billion monthly active users with RCS, a new standard that enables you to share high-quality photos, see type indicators, message over Wi-Fi and get a better group messaging experience.

27. Messages is getting a public beta of end-to-end encryption for group conversations.

28. Early earthquake warnings are coming to more high-risk regions around the world.

29. On select headphones, you’ll soon be able to automatically switch audio between the devices you’re listening on with Android.

30. Stream and use messaging apps from your Android phone to laptop with Chromebook’s Phone Hub, and you won’t even have to install any apps.

31. Google Wallet is here! It’s a new home for things like your student ID, transit tickets, vaccine card, credit cards, debits cards.

32. You can even use Google Wallet to hold your Walt Disney World park pass.

33. Google Wallet is coming to Wear OS, too.

34. Improved app experiences are coming for Android tablets: YouTube Music, Google Maps and Messages will take advantage of the extra screen space, and more apps coming soon include TikTok, Zoom, Facebook, Canva and many others.

Developer deep dive

Illustration depicting a smart home, with lights, thermostat, television, screen and mobile device.

35. The Google Home and Google Home Mobile software developer kit (SDK) for Matter will be launching in June as developer previews.

36. The Google Home SDK introduces Intelligence Clusters, which make intelligence features like Home and Away, available to developers.

37. Developers can even create QR codes for Google Wallet to create their own passes for any use case they’d like.

38. Matter support is coming to the Nest Thermostat.

39. The Google Home Developer Center has lots of updates to check out.

40. There’s now built-in support for Matter on Android, so you can use Fast Pair to quickly connect Matter-enabled smart home devices to your network, Google Home and other accompanying apps in just a few taps.

41. The ARCore Geospatial API makes Google Maps’ Live View technology available to developers for free. Companies like Lime are using it to help people find parking spots for their scooters and save time.

42. DOCOMO and Curiosity are using the ARCore Geospatial API to build a new game that lets you fend off virtual dragons with robot companions in front of iconic Tokyo landmarks, like the Tokyo Tower.

43. AlloyDB is a new, fully-managed PostgreSQL-compatible database service designed to help developers manage enterprise database workloads — in our performance tests, it’s more than four times faster for transactional workloads and up to 100 times faster for analytical queries than standard PostgreSQL.

44. AlloyDB uses the same infrastructure building blocks that power large-scale products like YouTube, Search, Maps and Gmail.

45. Google Cloud’s machine learning cluster powered by Cloud TPU v4 Pods is super powerful — in fact, we believe it’s the world’s largest publicly available machine learning hub in terms of compute power…

46. …and it operates at 90% carbon-free energy.

47. We also announced a preview of Cloud Run jobs, which reduces the time developers spend running administrative tasks like database migration or batch data transformation.

48. We announced Flutter 3.0, which will enable developers to publish production-ready apps to six platforms at once, from one code base (Android, iOS, Desktop Web, Linux, Desktop Windows and MacOS).

49. To help developers build beautiful Wear apps, we announced the beta of Jetpack Compose for Wear OS.

50. We’re making it faster and easier for developers to build modern, high-quality apps with new Live edit features in Android Studio.

Help for the home

GIF of a man baking cookies with a speech bubble saying “Set a timer for 10 minutes.” His Google Nest Hub Max responds with a speech bubble saying “OK, 10 min. And that’s starting…now.”

51. Many Nest Devices will become Matter controllers, which means they can serve as central hubs to control Matter-enabled devices both locally and remotely from the Google Home app.

52. Works with Hey Google is now Works with Google Home.

53. The new home.google is your new hub for finding out everything you can do with your Google Home system.

54. Nest Hub Max is getting Look and Talk, where you can simply look at your device to ask a question without saying “Hey Google.”

55. Look and Talk works when Voice Match and Face Match recognize that it’s you.

56. And video from Look and Talk interactions is processed entirely on-device, so it isn’t shared with Google or anyone else.

57. Look and Talk is opt-in. Oh, and FYI, you can still say “Hey Google” whenever you want!

58. Want to learn more about it? Just say “Hey Google, what is Look and Talk?” or “Hey Google, how do you enable Look and Talk?”

59. We’re also expanding quick phrases to Nest Hub Max, so you can skip saying “Hey Google” for some of your most common daily tasks – things like “set a timer for 10 minutes” or “turn off the living room lights.”

60. You can choose the quick phrases you want to turn on.

61. Your quick phrases will work when Voice Match recognizes it’s you .

62. And looking ahead, Assistant will be able to better understand the imperfections of human speech without getting tripped up — including the pauses, “umms” and interruptions — making your interactions feel much closer to a natural conversation.

Taking care of business

Animated GIF  demonstrating portrait light, bringing studio-quality lighting effects to Google Meet.

63. Google Meet video calls will now look better thanks to portrait restore and portrait light, which use AI and machine learning to improve quality and lighting on video calls.

64. Later this year we’re scaling the phishing and malware protections that guard Gmail to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.

65. Live sharing is coming to Google Meet, meaning users will be able to share controls and interact directly within the meeting, whether it’s watching an icebreaker video from YouTube or sharing a playlist.

66. Automated built-in summaries are coming to Spaces so you can get a helpful digest of conversations to catch up quickly.

67. De-reverberation for Google Meet will filter out echoes in spaces with hard surfaces, giving you conference-room audio quality whether you’re in a basement, a kitchen, or a big empty room.

68. Later this year, we're bringing automated transcriptions of Google Meet meetings to Google Workspace, so people can catch up quickly on meetings they couldn't attend.

Apps for on-the-go

A picture of London in immersive view.

69. Google Wallet users will be able to check the balance of transit passes and top up within Google Maps.

70. Google Translate added 24 new languages.

71. As part of this update, Indigenous languages of the Americas (Quechua, Guarani and Aymara) and an English dialect (Sierra Leonean Krio) have also been added to Translate for the first time.

72. Google Translate now supports a total of 133 languages used around the globe.

73. These are the first languages we’ve added using Zero-resource Machine Translation, where a machine learning model only sees monolingual text — meaning, it learns to translate into another language without ever seeing an example.

74. Google Maps’ new immersive view is a whole new way to explore so you can see what an area truly looks and feels like.

75. Immersive view will work on nearly any phone or tablet; you don’t need the fanciest or newest device.

76. Immersive view will first be available in L.A., London, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo — with more places coming soon.

77. Last year we launched eco-friendly routing in the U.S. and Canada. Since then, people have used it to travel 86 billion miles, which saved more than half a million metric tons of carbon emissions — that’s like taking 100,000 cars off the road.

78. And we’re expanding eco-friendly routing to more places, like Europe.

All in on AI

Ten circles in a row, ranging from dark to light.

The 10 shades of the Monk Skin Tone Scale.

79. A team at Google Research partnered with Harvard’s Dr. Ellis Monk to openly release the Monk Skin Tone Scale, a new tool for measuring skin tone that can help build more inclusive products.

80. Google Search will use the Monk Skin Tone Scale to make it easier to find more relevant results — for instance, if you search for “bridal makeup,” you’ll see an option to filter by skin tone so you can refine to results that meet your needs.

81. Oh, and the Monk Skin Tone Scale was used to evaluate a new set of Real Tone filters for Photos that are designed to work well across skin tones. These filters were created and tested in partnership with artists like Kennedi Carter and Joshua Kissi.

82. We’re releasing LaMDA 2, as a part of the AI Test Kitchen, a new space to learn, improve, and innovate responsibly on this technology together.

83. PaLM is a new language model that can solve complex math word problems, and even explain its thought process, step-by-step.

84. Nest Hub Max’s new Look and Talk feature uses six machine learning models to process more than 100 signals in real time to detect whether you’re intending to make eye contact with your device so you can talk to Google Assistant and not just giving it a passing glance.

85. We recently launched multisearch in the Google app, which lets you search by taking a photo and asking a question at the same time. At I/O, we announced that later this year, you'll be able to take a picture or screenshot and add "near me" to get local results from restaurants, retailers and more.

86. We introduced you to an advancement called “scene exploration,” where in the future, you’ll be able to use multisearch to pan your camera and instantly glean insights about multiple objects in a wider scene.

Privacy, security and information

A GIF that shows someone’s Google account with a yellow alert icon, flagging recommended actions they should take to secure their account.

87. We’ve expanded our support for Project Shield to protect the websites of 200+ Ukrainian government agencies, news outlets and more.

88. Account Safety Status will add a simple yellow alert icon to flag actions you should take to secure your Google Account.

89. Phishing protections in Google Workspace are expanding to Docs, Slides and Sheets.

90. My Ad Center is now giving you even more control over the ads you see on YouTube, Search, and your Discover feed.

91. Virtual cards are coming to Chrome and Android this summer, adding an additional layer of security and eliminating the need to enter certain card details at checkout.

92. In the coming months, you’ll be able to request removal of Google Search results that have your contact info with an easy-to-use tool.

93. Protected Computing, a toolkit that helps minimize your data footprint, de-identifies your data and restricts access to your sensitive data.

94. On-device encryption is now available for Google Password Manager.

95. We’re continuing to auto enroll people in 2-Step Verification to reduce phishing risks.

What else?!

Illustration of a black one-story building with large windows. Inside are people walking around wooden tables and white walls containing Google hardware products. There is a Google Store logo on top of the building.

96. A new Google Store is opening in Williamsburg.

97. This is our first “neighborhood store” — it’s in a more intimate setting that highlights the community. You can find it at 134 N 6th St., opening on June 16.

98. The store will feature an installation by Brooklyn-based artist Olalekan Jeyifous.

99. Visitors there can picture everyday life with Google products through interactive displays that show how our hardware and services work together, and even get hands-on help with devices from Google experts.

100. We showed a prototype of what happens when we bring technologies like transcription and translation to your line of sight.

Ask a Techspert: How do digital wallets work?

In recent months, you may have gone out to dinner only to realize you left your COVID vaccine card at home. Luckily, the host is OK with the photo of it on your phone. In this case, it’s acceptable to show someone a picture of a card, but for other things it isn’t — an image of your driver’s license or credit card certainly won’t work. So what makes digital versions of these items more legit than a photo? To better understand the digitization of what goes into our wallets and purses, I talked to product manager Dong Min Kim, who works on the brand new Google Wallet. Google Wallet, which will be coming soon in over 40 countries, is the new digital wallet for Android and Wear OS devices…but how does it work?

Let’s start with a basic question: What is a digital wallet?

A digital wallet is simply an application that holds digital versions of the physical items you carry around in your actual wallet or purse. We’ve seen this shift where something you physically carry around becomes part of your smartphone before, right?

Like..?

Look at the camera: You used to carry around a separate item, a camera, to take photos. It was a unique device that did a specific thing. Then, thanks to improvements in computing power, hardware and image processing algorithms, engineers merged the function of the camera — taking photos — into mobile phones. So now, you don’t have to carry around both, if you don’t want to.

Ahhh yes, I am old enough to remember attending college gatherings with my digital camera andmy flip phone.

Ha! So think about what else you carry around: your wallet and your keys.

So the big picture here is that digital wallets help us carry around less stuff?

That’s certainly something we’re thinking about, but it’s more about how we can make these experiences — the ones where you need to use a camera, or in our case, items from your wallet — better. For starters, there’s security: It's really hard for someone to take your phone and use your Google Wallet, or to take your card and add it to their own phone. Your financial institution will verify who you are before you can add a card to your phone, and you can set a screen lock so a stranger can’t access what’s on your device. And should you lose your device, you can remotely locate, lock or even wipe it from “Find My Device.”

What else can Google Wallet do that my physical wallet can’t?

If you saved your boarding pass for a flight to Google Wallet, it will notify you of delays and gate changes. When you head to a concert, you’ll receive a notification on your phone beforehand, reminding you of your saved tickets.

Wallet also works with other Google apps — for instance if you’re taking the bus to see a friend and look up directions in Google Maps, your transit card and balance will show up alongside the route. If you're running low on fare, you can tap and add more. We’ll also give you complete control over how items in your wallet are used to enable these experiences; for example, the personal information on your COVID vaccine pass is kept on your device and never shared without your permission, not even with Google.

Plus, even if you lose your credit or debit card and you’re waiting for the replacement to show up, you can still use that card with Google Wallet because of the virtual number attached to it.

This might be taking a step backwards, but can I pay someone from my Google Wallet? As in can I send money from a debit card, or straight from my bank account?

That’s actually where the Google Pay app — which is available in markets like the U.S., India and Singapore — comes in. We’ll keep growing this app as a companion app where you can do more payments-focused things like send and receive money from friends or businesses, discover offers from your favorite retailers or manage your transactions.

OK, but can I pay with my Google Wallet?

Yes,you can still pay with the cards stored in your Google Wallet in stores where Google Pay is accepted; it’s simple and secure.

Use payment cards in Google Wallet in stores with Google Pay, got it — but how does everything else “get” into Wallet?

We've already partnered with hundreds of transit agencies, retailers, ticket providers, health agencies and airlines so they can create digital versions of their cards or tickets for Google Wallet. You can add a card or ticket directly to Wallet, or within the apps or sites of businesses we partner with, you’ll see an option to add it to Wallet. We’re working on adding more types of content for Wallet, too, like digital IDs, or office and hotel keys.

An image of the Google Wallet app open on a Pixel phone. The app is showing a Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card, a ticket for a flight from SFO to JFK, and a Walgreens cash reward pass. In the bottom right hand corner, there is a “Add to Wallet” button.

Developers can make almost any item into a digital pass.. Developers can use the templates we’ve created, like for boarding passes and event tickets — or they can use a generic template if it’s something more unique and we don’t have a specific solution for it yet. This invitation to developers is part of what I think makes Google Wallet interesting; it’s very open.

What exactly do you mean by “open” exactly?

Well, the Android platform is open — any Android developer can use and develop for Wallet. One thing that’s great about that is all these features and tools can be made available on less expensive phones, too, so it isn’t only people who can afford the most expensive, newest phones out there who can use Google Wallet. Even if a phone can’t use some features of Google Wallet, it’s possible for developers to use QR or barcodes for their content, which more devices can access.

So working with Google Wallet is easier for developers. Any ways you’re making things easier for users?

Plenty of them! In particular, we’re working on ways to make it easy to add objects directly from your phone too. For instance, today if you take a screenshot of your boarding pass or Covid vaccine card from an Android device, we’ll give you the option to add it directly to your Google Wallet!

7 ways AI is making Google Workspace better

Hybrid work life is…well, one of our many “new normals.” Over the last two years, many of us have gone through various versions of what the office looks like, and these changes have been a significant motivation behind some of our recent updates to Google Workspace.

With some people in the office and others at home, the amount of emails, chats, and meetings in our inboxes and on our calendars has increased — so we’ve been working on finding more ways to use machine learning to fight information overload and keep you feeling productive. Here are seven upcoming features — most made possible by AI — on their way to Google Workspace:

  1. Portrait restore uses Google AI technology to improve video quality, so even if you’re using Google Meet in a dimly lit room using an old webcam — or maybe you’ve got a bad WiFi connection — your video will be automatically enhanced.
Animated GIF showing a person in a Google Meet call who is backlit, and their image is very dark in the call. Portrait restore is applied, and their face is then better lit and more visible.

Portrait restore improves video quality using Google AI.

2. We’re also introducing portrait light: This feature uses machine learning to simulate studio-quality lighting in your video feed, and you can even adjust the lighting position and brightness.

Animated GIF showing a person in a Google Meet call. The cursor is moving around selecting areas where it can apply portrait lighting, brightening up various areas of the image.

Portrait light brings studio-quality lighting effects to Google Meet.

3. We’re adding de-reverberation, which filters out echoes in spaces with hard surfaces, so it sounds like you’re in a mic-ed up conference room…even if you’re in your basement.

4. Live sharing will sync content that’s being shared in a Google Meet call and allow participants to control the media. Whether you’re at the office or at home, the person sharing the content or viewing it, participants will see and hear what’s going on at the same time. Our partners and developers can use our live sharing APIs today to start integrating Meet into their apps.

5. Earlier this year, we introduced automated built-in summaries for Google Docs. Now we’re extending auto-summaries to Spaces so you get a helpful digest of conversations you missed.

An animated GIF demonstrating how summaries in Spaces works.

Summaries in Spaces help you catch up quickly on conversations.

6. Later this year, we're bringingautomated transcriptions of Google Meet meetings to Google Workspace, so people can catch up quickly on meetings they couldn't attend.

7. Many of the security protections that we use for Gmail are coming to Google Slides, Docs and Sheets. For example, if a Doc you’re about to open contains phishing links or malware, you’ll get an automatic alert.

For a deeper dive into all the new AI capabilities coming to Google Workspace, head over to the Cloud blog for more details.

10 fun facts to celebrate a decade of Drive

Engineer Darren Smith remembers the day that Google Drive launched in 2012. “We were all in a conference room, sort of like a war room,” he says. “We all cheered when the first user was live with Drive!" And just like that, Drive was...well, alive. (Fun fact: The team who launched it actually had “It exists” shirts made.)

  1. Drive was originally available via invite only when it was first rolling out. “We were all given tokens — sort of like digital passes — that we could share with family and friends,” says Darren. “It was really fun to see people finally using this thing we’d been working on for so long.”
  2. It’s hard to remember a time before you could save files from Gmail directly to Drive, but it was only a short while ago: Attachments in Gmail were introduced in 2013, saving us all from that agonizing experience of downloading file after file after file.
  3. You can store a lot in Google Drive — but maybe you don’t know how much. Ahem, a few numbers that may surprise you! You can store up to:
    • 1.02 million characters in a Google Doc
    • 10 million cells or 18,278 columns in a Google Sheet
    • 100 MB of data in a Google Slide presentation

Check out this Help Center article for more impressive storage stats.

4. The icon for Google Drive went through many, many iterations. Eventually, the team settled on the one we know and love — except it used to be rotated slightly differently so that it looked a little like a “D.” Eventually the team realized it looked too similar to the Google Play icon, so they rotated it . “Now it points up, sort of suggesting you’re uploading something to the cloud,” Drive Product Manager Scott Limbird says.

5. Accessibility is a major priority for Drive and all Google products — everyone should be able to use Drive, and get the most out of it. A huge step toward making this happen was the launch of screen reader compatibility in 2014, an update specifically designed for blind and low-vision users.

6. Google’s productivity expert Laura Mae Martin regularly shares her Drive tips with other Googlers — here’s a handy one for handling advanced images in Drive: In Drive, select New + and then Google Drawings (or type drawing.new into your browser!). From there, copy/paste, drag, upload or import your image file; then you can edit it, download it in any format and share the image like you would any other Drive file. Of course you can also use Google Drawings to make your own image entirely and import it into a Doc or Slide, or save it in various file formats.

Animated GIF showing how you can navigate to Google Drawings.

7. If you’re one of the many people with way too many things in your Drive, then search chips are your friend. We introduced this feature in February of this year, and it helps you find what you’re looking for based on what kind of file it is, who else is working on it with you…the list goes on and on.

8. Keeping users and their Drive content safe is important, which is why we’ve introduced features like suspicious file warnings, labels for sensitive files and more secure ways to share to broad audiences.

9. In 2017, we introduced Backup and Sync to make it easy for folks to control how their photos and files were backed up to Google services — and then in 2021, Drive for desktop replaced Backup and Sync, which made it even easier to access files from any device, anywhere. (Not to mention it made file and photo management simpler and faster!)

10. Darren says one of his favorite Drive memories actually happened outside the office. “When my daughter was getting married, her wedding planner was sharing all these files and folders with us,” he says. “And of course, she did that with Drive!”

Happy 10 years, Google Drive! You’re an excellent home for our Docs, Sheets, Slides…and everything else.

Ask a Techspert: What’s that weird box next to my emoji?

A few months ago, I received a message from a friend that, I have to confess, made absolutely no sense. Rows of emoji followed by different boxes — like this 􏿿􏿿􏿿􏿿􏿿􏿿 — appeared…so I sent back a simple “huh?” Apparently she’d sent me a string of emoji that were meant to tell me about her weekend and let’s just say that it was all lost in translation.

To find out exactly what caused our communication breakdown, I decided to ask emoji expert Jennifer Daniel.

Why did the emoji my friend typed to me show up as 􏿿􏿿􏿿􏿿􏿿􏿿 ?

Oy boy. No bueno. Sounds like your friend was using some of the new emoji that were released this month. (Not to rub it in but they are so good!!! There’s a salute 🫡, a face holding back tears, 🥹 and another face that’s melting 🫠!) Sadly, you’re not the only one who’s losing things in translation. For way too long, 96% of Android users couldn’t see emoji released the year they debuted.

And it isn't just an Android problem: Despite being one of the earliest platforms to include emoji, Gmail received its first emoji update since 2016 last year! (You read that right: Two-thousand-sixteen!) This often resulted in skin toned and gendered emoji appearing broken.

Illustration of a few examples of "broken" skin tone and gendered emoji.

A few examples of "broken" skin tone and gendered emoji.

What!? That’s crazy. Why?

Yeah, strong agree. Historically, emoji have been at the mercy of operating system updates. New OS? New emoji. If you didn’t update your device, it meant that when new emoji were released, they would display as those black boxes you saw, which are referred to as a “tofu.” It gets worse: What if your phone doesn’t offer OS updates? Well, you’d have to buy a newer phone. Maybe that’d be worth it so you can use the new finger heart emoji (🫰)???

Emoji are fundamental to digital communication. Meanwhile, there is a very real economic divide between people who can afford to get a new phone every year (or who can afford a fancy phone that generously updates the OS) and everyone else in the world. That is lame, absurd and I personally hate it. Now for the good news: Check your phone, I bet you can see the emoji from your friend’s email today.

Whaaaaat! You’re right. Why can I see them now but I couldn’t a few months ago?

Well, this year Google finally decoupled emoji updates from operating system updates. That means YOU get an emoji and YOU get an emoji and YOU get an emoji!

Examples of emoji

What does “decoupled” emoji updates mean?

It basically means emoji can be updated on your phone or your computer without you updating your operating system. As of this month, all apps that use Appcompat (a tool that enables Android apps to be compatible with several Android versions)will automatically get the latest and greatest emoji so you can send and receive emoji even if you don’t have the newest phone. And this will work across Google: All 3,366 emoji will now appear in Gmail, on Chrome OS and lots of other places when people send them to you. Apps that make their own emoji rather than defaulting on the operating system may find themselves falling behind as taking on the responsibility of maintaining and distributing emoji is a lot of work. This is why we're so thrilled to see Google rely on Noto Emoji so everyone can get the latest emoji quickly.

Since you mentioned Gmail being an early emoji adopter, it makes me wonder…how old are emoji? Where do they come from?

A volunteer-based organization called the Unicode Consortium digitizes the world’s languages. They’re the reason why when you send Hindi from one computer the computer on the other end can render it in Hindi. In their mission to ensure different platforms and operating systems can work together, they standardize the underlying technology that Google, Apple, Twitter and others use to render their emoji fonts.

You see, emoji are a font. That’s right. A font. I know. They look like tiny pictures but they operate the same way any other letter of the alphabet does when it enters our digital realm.

Like the letter A (U+0041) or the letter अ (U+0905), each emoji is assigned a code point (for instance, 😤 is U+1F624) by the Unicode Consortium. (Some emoji contain multiple code points — I’m generalizing a bit! Don’t tell the Unicode Consortium.) Point being: Emoji are a font and like fonts, some emoji on iPhones look different than they do on Pixel phones.

A variety of the new emoji designs that are now visible  across Google products including Gmail, Google Chat, YouTube Live Chat and Chrome OS.

A variety of the new emoji designs that are now visible across Google products including Gmail, Google Chat, YouTube Live Chat and Chrome OS.

So, the Unicode Consortium makes fonts?

No, they manage a universal character encoding set that written languages map to. Google's Noto project is a global font project to support those existing scripts and languages. Google uses Noto Emoji and provides resources to ensure your emoji render on Android and in desktop environments including metadata like iconography and shortcodes too! All Google chat products now support this.

We’re also working on ways for you to download or embed Noto Emoji into your website of choice via fonts.google.com. So, stay tuned 😉.

Emoji are a font. Black boxes are tofus. The more you know! I guess I have one final question: Now that I can send (and see!) the melting face emoji, will it look identical no matter who I send it to?

Well, every emoji font has its own flavor. Some of these design variations are minor and you might not even notice them. With others, primarily the smilies (😆🤣🥲), the details really matter — people are hardwired to read micro-expressions! The last thing anyone wants is an emoji you see as a smile and someone else sees as a downward smirk — it can ruin friendships! Fortunately, over the past three years designs have converged, so there’s less chance of being misunderstood 🌈.

We heart this: Behind in-meeting emoji in Meet

Carolien Postma is used to testing and retesting (and retesting) new features. She’s a user experience (UX) researcher at Google, a role she describes as “making sure that whatever we build and create, that it actually creates value for our users and that it actually does what our users need it to do.”

Over the past nine months, she’s been part of the team testing the upcoming emoji reactions for Google Meet. “This release was about giving people an easy way to express their feelings and feedback in a way that helped everyone in a call feel more connected,” Carolien says. “This was a fun one, too, because it’s something I can point to that makes my work tangible!”

While the work was certainly fun, it was also important: Emoji help teams celebrate wins and offer support, and it’s important they represent everyone. Because of this, there were plenty of research hours behind the project. Here are a few of the things Carolien and her fellow UX researchers on the team investigated, and how this work turned up in the final designs.

Emoji for all.

Carolien and her team worked hard to ensure choosing the right emoji was seamless. “We wanted to include emoji that are universally understood, and mean the same or similar things across cultures,” Carolien says. Because other Google products use emoji and emoji reactions, they were able to take a look at this research to inform the new feature. You’ll see that the experience is configured in a way that lets people easily give a thumbs up, clap or heart.

The whole idea behind emoji reactions is to foster a feeling of connection.

It’s all in the timing.

Another design choice made as a result of testing was the emoji reactions’ “rhythm.” When Meet participants click an emoji, it floats up across the screen — and when multiple people do this, they all do so with specific timing. It took a while to determine what that timing looked like and felt like. “The whole idea behind emoji reactions is to foster a feeling of connection,” Carolien says. “And we found that if the timing was off, the whole feeling of connectedness fell away.” This research helped the design team settle on a timing that felt human instead of mechanic.

A screenshot of a Google Meet video call in presentation mode. Desktop folders are in the center of the screen; various emoji next to names are on the left hand side of the screen while tile images of call attendees are on the right hand side.

Nice place.

“We wanted emoji reactions to be expressive and convey emotions, and at the same time, not feel like they’re taking over the call and distracting from the meeting,” Carolien explains. The team tested how people reacted not only to the emoji popping up in their meetings, but also to things like where the feature was placed inside Meet calls. “We wanted to make sure it was easy for people to find and allow them to get to it quickly — so no one misses the moment!” In one iteration, Carolien says, the emoji bar was too close to the end call button. “We obviously didn’t want someone to go send an emoji and hang up on their call, so we ended up moving it.”

The pros of pros and cons.

While Carolien has been a UX researcher for more than 15 years, even she can be surprised by what testing can reveal — case in point, what her team found out about including so-called “negative” emoji reactions. “Initially we only had ‘positive’ emoji — like a smiley or a thumbs-up,” she says. “But then we tested it more and we found that people sometimes need to use a ‘negative’ emoji — like a thumbs-down — to convey something.”

For example, if someone in a call is describing a tough situation they’re going through, a thumbs-up or smiley emoji might be seen as sarcastic, while a face with open mouth emoji 😮 could be seen as sympathetic to someone’s struggles. Carolien and her team also found that positive emoji (like a thumbs up, or a heart) are used more frequently than negative emoji (a thumbs down), so they intentionally grouped the positive emoji in a way that makes them easy to get to, since people tend to use them more to show support or share kudos.

Screenshot of a Google Meet call with four callers’ tiled images on the screen. The bottom bar of the call shows the emoji option selected, with another bar pulled up showing the various emoji options — thumbs-up, clapping, heart, laughing, surprised, thumbs-down.

Emoji reactions in Meet are just part of the latest Google Workplace updates — in the coming weeks, Meet will be available directly in Docs, Sheets and Slides to facilitate collaborative working sessions, and inline threading in Spaces will help keep conversations organized and contextual. Be sure to check out the Google Cloud blog for everything that’s new and coming soon.