Google Audio History

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A recent update to the Google Search app for Android added enhanced support for the “OK Google” hotword. If you go to the settings, tap “Voice”, then “OK Google Detection”, you can enable “from any screen” and “from lock screen”. This way, you can say “OK Google” to start a voice search or action when the screen is on or the device is charging and even from the lock screen. Right now, this feature is limited to English/US and requires Android KitKat.

When you enable these features, Google asks you to say “OK Google” 3 times to train the speech recognition software and it also enables Audio History. “When you use voice activation commands such as ‘OK Google’ or touching a microphone icon, a recording of the next thing you say, plus a few seconds before, may be used and stored by Google and associated with your Google Account to help recognize your voice and improve speech recognition.”

Your recordings are available online at the Google Audio History page. “Only you can see your history. Some items may take up to an hour to display,” informs Google. You can delete the recordings, play them or click the Google search links. Click the “gear” drop-down menu, click “delete” and you can pick from “past hour”, “past day”, “past week”, “last 4 weeks”, “the beginning of time” (the same options that are used by Chrome’s “clear browsing data” feature).

You can disable Google Audio History from the Android app’s settings, but this also disables “OK Google” detection from any screen or from the lock screen. “When Audio History is off, voice searches will be stored using anonymous identifiers and won’t be saved to your Audio History, even if you’re signed in to your Google Account,” informs Google.

“Google uses your Audio History to: learn the sound of your voice, learn how you pronounce words and phrases, recognize when you say ‘Ok Google’ and improve speech recognition across Google products that use your voice.”

The new Audio History feature seems to replace Personalized Voice Recognition, an opt-in setting added back in 2010. “If you opt into personalized recognition, we begin to associate the recordings of the words that you ask us to recognize with your Google account. We then automatically use these words to build a speech model specifically for you. This speech model enables us to deliver greater recognition accuracy,” explained Google back then.

While it makes sense for Google to improve the voice search history and build personalized voice models, I can’t find any connection between the improved “OK Google” detection, which works offline, and the Audio History online service. It’s probably an artificial requirement, just like the Google Now feature, which requires enabling location services in iOS, but not when using Android.

July 11th 2014 Android

Connected TV Market Crosses 1B Devices As Google Pins Its Hopes On Android TV

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atv-framed A new report from Strategy Analytics puts the global market for connected TV devices at over 1 billion currently installed units, which include smart TVs, set-top boxes like the Apple TV, game consoles, connected Blu-ray players and more. The market is predicted to double in size between now and 2018, reaching the 2 billion mark, with smart TVs carrying embedded platforms as the main segment… Read More

July 10th 2014 Android, Google

Chromecast Adds Support for Android Screen Mirroring

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As previously announced at Google I/O, Chromecast is about to become a lot more functional. The latest version of the Chromecast app for Android (that’s version 1.7) adds support for screen mirroring. The feature is still in beta and it’s limited to a few high-end Android phones and tablets running Android KitKat 4.4.1+: Nexus 4, 5, 7 (second generation only) and 10, Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5, Note 3 and 10, HTC One M7, LG G2, G3 and G Pro 2. Google promises to add more devices to the list.

“To start mirroring, simply select ‘Cast Screen’ from the navigation drawer in the Chromecast app and select your Chromecast device. On Nexus devices, this feature is also available through the quick settings menu,” explains Google.

Hopefully, Android L will add native support for screen mirroring, so you’ll no longer have to use the Chromecast app.

This screenshot shows screen casting in action. Obviously, the entire screen is mirrored, including the on-screen navigation buttons, if your device has them.

July 10th 2014 Android

Facebook Tests Android L-Style Lock Screen Notifications

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fb-notifications A new update for the test group of Facebook for Android users briefly enabled lockscreen notifications, at least for new message activity, before a later update today seems to have disabled the feature. The notifications looked very similar to the lock screen notifications Google showed off at I/O this year, one of the new upcoming features of Android L, the next major update for… Read More

July 9th 2014 Android, Facebook, Mobile

From Google TV to Android TV

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I was curios to find how Google plans to restart the Google TV project, so I checked the developer sites for Google TV and Android TV to find some differences. Android TV seems to be a simplified Google TV built along the lines of Apple TV.

Android TV

Google TV

1. Navigation: from keyboards and mice to remote controls

“Google TV devices always include a keyboard and a pointing device that controls the cursor. Many users will have these next to them as they view TV. The two may be combined into a single physical device, and this device may also include a mouse controller.” Android TV has a more limited scope: “On a TV device, users navigate with controls on a remote control device, using either a directional pad (D-pad) or arrow keys.” While keyboards are still supported, they’re no longer that useful.

2. Avoiding text input

While Google TV devices included keyboards, Android TV recommends developers to avoid text input. “Avoid making users enter text whenever possible, and use voice interfaces when you require text input.”

3. Avoiding text altogether

Google TV’s dev pages suggested to “limit each paragraph to no more than 90 words and break text into small chunks that users can quickly scan”. Android TV’s guidelines tell developers to “avoid using on-screen text to convey information and purpose. Tell your story with pictures and sound.”

4. From computing to content consumption

Google TV included a browser with Flash support and encouraged developers to optimize their sites for the platform. Android TV tells a different story: “The TV is an entertainment interface, not a computer or mobile device. Optimize for activities that put content at the center: from the casual posture of movie-watching, to immersive gameplay, to hanging out with friends in a living room.” And another thing: “We discourage including web browsing in games for Android TV. The television set is not well-suited for browsing, either in terms of display or control scheme.”

5. Simplicity

One of the main issues with Google TV was that it was complicated to use. “Android TV is simple and magical. It’s all about finding and enjoying content and apps with the least amount of friction.”

Google TV’s goal was to bring the Web to the TV. That didn’t work well: content providers blocked Google TV, input devices were clunky and people didn’t like browsing the Web on their TVs. So now Android TV tries to bring the Android ecosystem to the TV: the focus is on content, immersive interfaces and simple navigation.

Here’s the 2010 introduction video to Google TV:

July 7th 2014 Android

Samsung Gear Live Review: Samsung’s Smartwatch First Mover Advantage Helps Its Android Wear Effort

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IMG_9828 Samsung is one of the first to market with an Android Wear smartwatch, and the company arguably has a head start since it’s been making its own smartwatches since last year. The Gear Live owes much to its predecessors, which have run both a modified version of Android and Samsung’s own Tizen, but it manages to feel like much more than an older sibling’s hand-me-downs.… Read More

July 4th 2014 Android, Google, Mobile

LG G Watch Review: This Early Android Wear Watch Could Use A Bit More Time To Bake

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IMG_9834 LG is one of the first to market with an Android Wear smartwatch. Their hardware runs on Google’s smartwatch platform, which is pretty locked down in terms of what kind of customizations Google allows OEM to make. But there’s still plenty of room to shine – and fall short – when it comes to hardware design. LG’s watch seems to have missed the mark in some key… Read More

July 4th 2014 Android, Google, Mobile

A Look Back at Google’s History of Social Media Failures

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In some alternate social media history, the term Crush List is a verb—meaning to elevate a friend to the most prominent position within one’s social network. And somewhere MySpace founder Tom Anderson is cursing the name Orkut Buyukkokten—not Mark Zuckerberg. And in this reality, social media giant Google has more than a billion people on Orkut, the service that defined the next great Internet era after search.

Orkut’s official release date was January 2004; Facebook’s was February that year. In this reality, this week, Google announced it would shut down the network.

The loss of Orkut is yet another sign of how social still vexes Google, a company that tinkers with autonomous cars. Sure, it has Google+, but even that strategy has its troubles to the point that tech blogs are reporting on its imminent demise, too.

With Orkut gone, it’s a good time to reflect on Google’s contributions to social media:

Orkut almost had its moment. Just ask Brazil and India where the site actually introduced the masses to social networking. In Brazil, Orkut reached 30 million users at one point. Then Facebook entered the market in 2011, ahead of its eventual IPO, and Brazilians never looked back.

Dodgeball was a social media acquisition from 2005, brought to you by the co-founder who eventually built Foursquare. Dodgeball was an early attempt at location-based social media for stalking your “crushes.” Those were likely the same people you Crush Listed on Orkut.

Latitude. Like one Dodgeball failure wasn’t enough, Google folded it into Latitude, then closed that location-based service last year.

Google Buzz was a disaster from the start, and it led to one of Google’s bigger regulatory smackdowns. In 2010, Google tried to launch this turnkey social network that could immediately compete with Facebook and Twitter. Google basically tried to force feed a social network to gmail users, whose online contacts became their Buzz connections. Buzz became a privacy nightmare even in the social media realm, and the service was shut down in December 2011.

YouTube represents one of Google’s best opportunities in social media, if it can get its users to register and log in. Of course, even that stirred up user outcry, which is pretty easy to do on the video-sharing site. Last year, Google instituted new policies that made YouTube visitors sign in with Google+ if they want to leave comments. It’s the kind of forced integration that has many Google users wary of its namesake social network.

Google+ is the social layer that connects Android and search and YouTube and all of Google. There are questions about the viability of the stand-alone social network, but as this single log-in provider—an ID badge—it is considered Google’s great unifier. Google+ did recently lose its top executive and advocate Vic Gundotra, and Larry Page said he is still committed to the actual network, even though Google is clearly scaling back some of its presence. Google said at its developers conference last week that some Google+ information and profile photos would not show up in search results anymore.

Waze, Twitch and the future of Google in general will be social. Google bought the social-mapping site Waze for more than $1 billion last year. UPDATE: And there have been reports that it is interested in buying video-game streaming service Twitch, a popular source of teen entertainment. On Tuesday, Google did buy the music service Songza. Despite a history full of failed projects and brief moments of user tumult, Google will acquire a social presence where it can and weave one into all other properties—YouTube Music, Hangouts messaging, payments, shopping and gmail. 
 






Understanding Android Wear

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Android Wear watches work best when paired with phones running Android 4.3 or later. You can also pair them with tablets, but they’re more useful as phone companions. Android 4.3 brings support for Bluetooth 4.0 and that’s the reason why it’s required.

There’s no app store for Android Wear: the watch will show information from the apps you’ve installed on your phone. Android Wear has a simple interface for displaying notifications, Google Now cards and a few customization options. Watches don’t make sounds for notifications, they only vibrate. You can only use voice input and this works when you are online.

So what happens when you aren’t near your phone or you unpair your watch from your phone? You can still use some basic features: tell the time, alarm, stopwatch, timer, view calendar for today, step count, heart rate (if supported), change watch face and enable airplane mode. Basically, it’s a combination of watch, timer and pedometer.

Android Wear watches don’t bring any new feature, they’re just a more convenient way to access your notifications and Google Now cards. A second screen for your phone that displays useful information, so that you only use your phone when it’s necessary. It’s also a way to quickly find information or perform simple actions like setting reminders, controlling music, taking notes or replying to texts and emails – all of them using your voice. “OK Google” is the magic hotword.

Android Wear’s tagline is “information that moves with you”. The first two Android Wear watches from Samsung and LG cost from $199 to $229 and don’t have impressive specs. Battery life is limited to 1-2 days and that’s one of the most important things that need to be improved. Unlike Samsung’s Gear watch that runs its own software, they don’t have a camera and they don’t let you answer phone calls.

Computing devices get smaller and smaller, they’re powerful because they’re always with you. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that Android Wear watches aren’t standalone devices, they’re only companion devices. They’re water resistant, so they’re better suited for an active lifestyle.

Google Now and Google Voice Search are great for interacting with a simple device that has a small screen. Hopefully, Android Wear forces Google to add APIs that allow other apps to add Google Now cards and voice actions.

July 1st 2014 Android

Twitter Rolls Out App Install & Engagement Ads Globally

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Twitter, looking for a bigger piece of the lucrative mobile app install business, announced today the official global launch of its mobile app promotion suite. The ad product, in beta testing with companies such as Lyft and EA for the last six months, enables the placement of promoted tweets that…



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July 1st 2014 Android, Mobile, Twitter