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This Week in Tech: Everything we learned from Google I/O 2019
Google I/O 2019: What happened?
Google has announced a shedload of updates and plans for the rest of this year at its annual I/O Developers’ Conference in sunny Mountain View, California.
We’ve already taken a look at the new Google Pixel 3a, the mid-range marvel unveiled with much praise from the attendees, but there were lots more announcements that got us all excited too…
Google Nest Hub Max – the Home Hub’s big brother
The Google Home Hub quickly established itself last year as one of the best smart home screens in the market, thanks to the seamless link it provided between smart home and smartphone, letting you stay completely on top of your day. However, like most debut product launches it didn’t quite scratch the itch a lot of tech heads had.
But Google has listened. It heard the calls for a bigger screen; for video calling capabilities; for better smart home integration; and in response we have the Nest Hub Max – not one, but two smart home devices in one.
As you might have guessed, it’s a Nest-Google hybrid - a smart home and security device that offers all of the above, as well as facial recognition to completely tailor Google Assistant to your day and your network and new gestures to control the device if the house is a little too noisy.
Google shows off AR on Maps
In keeping with everything Smart, we saw some exciting new updates in Google’s Augmented Reality space, with help from its Search and Lens teams.
Our favourite new feature is AR’s integration into Google Maps, which brings you a whole new way to navigate around urban areas. Using GPS with the Pixel’s camera, you’ll see the direction you need to go in (and the street you need to go down) right in front of you on the screen.
While we’d advise against too much walking around with your head down staring at a screen, it’s a super handy feature for times when the map’s a little too complicated – just lift up your phone and you’ll know where to go!
We got the lowdown on Android Q
After months of rumours and speculation, we were finally given a real look into Android’s latest OS update. As always it was chock full of tweaks and changes, some large and some small, but here’s a list of the important ones:
- Live Captions: This awesome new feature recognises speech in any video played on your Android phone to give you captions in real-time. For those hard of hearing, or if you’re stuck in a noisy place, this new update will be extremely helpful.
- Google Focus Mode: Temporarily shut down distracting apps to let you focus on what’s at hand.
- Universal Dark Theme: Despite existing in some individual apps already, this dark theme will work system-wide across (most) apps on your Android phone, letting you save your battery and your eyes from a bright screen.
- Parental Controls: With help from Google’s parental programme Family Link, you can set usage limits on your child’s apps and devices.
- Incognito Mode on Google Maps: Says what it does, really. Flip a switch (or tap a button…up to you) on the Maps app and it’ll stop recording your location, searches and directions. Turn it back on whenever you like.
Google Assistant is (finally) coming to Sonos
If you’re the proud owner of a Sonos One speaker or Sonos Beam soundbar, well…firstly you should be – they’re great pieces of kit! Secondly though, if you’re also a Google Home or Android user you may have found it frustrating without the option to connect it to your smart home.
A new software update from Sonos has finally remedied this, to many people’s relief. It’ll be an option during the setup stage for your Sonos One or Beam device, which means you may have to reset it in order to sync it up with your Google account.
The payoff will be worth it, though. You’ll now get Sonos’ famed audio quality coupled with the immensely intuitive Google Home. How’s that for all you music fans?!
Group together your Philips Hue bulbs
Another long-awaited update this week came in the form of yet another smart home icon. Philips Hue has for some time been the staple screw-in for many of our smart lights in recent years, but they’ve historically been missing out on a key feature that makes so much sense. Until now.
Now before you get all excited, this only really applies to those who have multiple bulbs installed per room, so if you’re just starting out on your collection you may not have encountered this problem just yet. Anyhow, welcome to ‘Zones’ – Philips Hue’s answer to separately grouping smart light bulbs together inside a room.
Beforehand, you only used to be able to control an individual bulb or an entire room of bulbs, but with this handy third option you can ‘zone’ out your room to set the perfect ambience. Try it now today!
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