Yesterday was a big day for Google, having taken the virtual stage at I/O 2021 for its annual kick-off keynote. We got plenty of news out of the two-hour show from a new version of Android to literally 3D video chatting.
But there were a good couple of handfuls of new features that might’ve slipped through the cracks as you tried to catch up on all the hoopla. There are new features in Google Photos, Maps gets a slew of updates, Google Workspace is seeing improvements, security is being enhanced – and so on and so forth.
Here’s a breakdown of those announcements that may have not gotten your full attention.
As is the case often with any Google software announcement, Photos is getting some pretty cool updates, one of them being a new type of Memory that’ll pop up at the top of the app. It’ll highlight patterns within photos and group them together in a slide show. The company gives an example of this with photos of a man with his orange backpack.
New Memories will also pop up for moments you celebrate such as during holidays.
Cinematic moments may be one of my favorite new features to reach Google Photos. It’ll take two photos you took of a particular moment (such as when someone’s moving and you’re trying to ensure you have a good photo) and combine them, creating a short clip with a touch of motion that brings the photos to life. It’ll even create fake frames to fill in the gaps and make everything look natural. I’m definitely looking forward to testing this out.
Google says it will also give you greater control over what photos pop up in your Memories. The company notes it heard from the transgender community that “resurfacing certain photos is painful, so we’ve been working with our partners at GLAAD and listening to feedback to make reminiscing more inclusive.”
Google Photos already includes controls to hide photos of certain people or time periods, and we’re continuing to add new ones to improve the experience as a result of this continued partnership. Later this summer we’re making these controls easier to find, so you can choose what you look back on in just a few taps.
We’re also adding more granular controls for Memories in your grid — starting today, you’ll be able to rename a Trip highlight, or remove it completely. And coming soon, you’ll be able to remove a single photo from a Memory, remove Best of Month Memories and rename or remove Memories based on the moments you celebrate.
Finally, the company will add a passcode-protected locker to the Photos app so you can hide certain photos from others.
Google Maps is getting updated with a handful of new features, with the feature leading the pack living in the safety category. In a future update to the app, Maps will be able to tell you which route to take and which lanes to get in to so as to avoid close calls like slowing traffic and hitting your brakes.
Here’s how it works: Every time you get directions in Maps, we calculate multiple route options to your destination based on several factors, like how many lanes a road has and how direct a route is. With this update, we’ll take the fastest routes and identify which one is likely to reduce your chances of encountering a hard-braking moment. We’ll automatically recommend that route if the ETA is the same or the difference is minimal. We believe that these changes have the potential to eliminate 100 million hard-braking events in routes driven with Google Maps each year, so you can rely on Maps to get you from A to B quickly — but also more safely.
Live View is also seeing improvements, with the ability to access it right from the map you’re using. You can look around at nearby businesses and tap on them to learn more about them. Meanwhile, for on-foot navigation, detailed street maps will launch in August and be available in more than 50 cities like Berlin, São Paulo, Seattle, and Singapore by the end of this year.
Live busyness information will also be available for different areas to give you an idea of whether an area is busier than usual. Google will also highlight the most relevant places to visit based on time of day and whether or not you’re traveling.
If you live in New York and open up Maps at 8 a.m. on a weekday, we’ll prominently feature nearby coffee shops — instead of dinner spots — so you can start your day with a caffeine fix. And if you’re on a weekend getaway, it’ll be easier to spot local landmarks and tourist attractions right on the map. Want more options? Tap on any place to see similar places nearby.
Google says all of these features should start rolling out globally in the coming months on Android and iOS.
Google Workspace, the company’s alternative to Microsoft Office, is getting a slew of updates over the coming months. The company lists 12 to be exact, but there are three big ones to pay attention to.
First off, you’ll be able to @ mention documents and files within other documents you interact with throughout Google Workspace. What’s more, you can also mention meetings and recommended people who you want associated with certain documents. The experience is powered by “smart chips” which let you mention these other web-based formats.
Another big new feature is page-less documents. Now, instead of having to stick with 8.5 x 11 document sizes, Google Docs will let you get rid of any sort of size restriction and let you type, format, and insert objects onto a canvas that dynamically adapts to however much content you’re working with and what size your screen is. The company notes you can always go back to a standard paper-sized document if you need to print it or convert it into a PDF.
Then there’s the ability to create and edit documents right from Google Chat rooms. The company says teams within chats can now begin creating Docs, Sheets ,and Slides together at any moment during their discussion. All of these features are a part of Google’s “smart canvas” initiative that will see the rest of Workspace tie more closely in with the various services and platforms it comprises.
Here’s a rundown of the other new features coming to Workspace soon.
- You can now react to Docs with emojis.
- More inclusive language recommendations will pop up when Google thinks it’s necessary. For example, it will suggest “mail carrier” if you type “mailman.”
- Docs gain a new template to automatically import relevant information from a Calendar event to or smart chips into the notes section.
- Checklists are coming to Docs.
- Tablet templates are also coming to Docs.
- You can now initiate a Google Meet conversation from a Doc, Sheet, or Slide to show your work with your team.
- Live captions and translations are coming to Google Meet.
- A new Timeline view is coming to Sheets.
- More assisted analysis functionality is also coming to Sheets.
Google is ramping up its security for all Google users, starting with the ability to change a password that might be compromised using the Google Assistant. If Chrome detects a bad password on a supported site, it’ll help you change it right then and there. There will also be a manual way to do this if the prompt doesn’t appear automatically.
For Google accounts, the company is introducing the ability to quickly delete your search history from the last 15 minutes. Location History reminders will now be available in your Maps Timeline to remind you why you can see everywhere you’ve gone. Android 12 will also get deeper permission features thanks to a new Privacy Dashboard where you can see a timeline of when apps accessed your camera, microphone, or location. You can disable that functionality from the panel and restrict certain apps’ access if you want.
Password Manager is also getting updated with the ability to import passwords from other password managers, deeper integrations with Chrome and Android to help fill your passwords across sites and apps and make logging in easier, and Password Alerts to warn you if Google detects one of your saved passwords has been compromised.
Finally, the company will include a new Private Compute core in Android 12 which will help securely process AI-driven features like Live Caption and Smart Reply.
Better integration across devices
Google is also improving integration between devices running its services.
For starters, your Android phone can now act as a remote for your Google/Android TV. The remote will have a cursor on it and a keyboard. It’ll roll out later this year.
Fast Pair will come more devices in the coming months, including Beats headphones and cars from BMW and Ford. If you’re unfamiliar, Fast Pair lets you quickly pair Bluetooth devices to your phone through a simple prompt instead of having to dive all the way into Bluetooth settings.
Speaking of cars, Google is also working on letting you turn your phone into a car key. A new digital car key will debut in Android 12 and let you unlock and even start your vehicle, just like how the equivalent feature works on iOS. It’s powered by Ultra Wideband technology and NFC. Right now, it looks like only BMW will be supporting the feature, but Google’s list of supported manufacturers is likely to grow over time.
Rounding things off, Google will be tightening integration between your Android phone and your Chromebook. In a future update, you’ll be able to access your phone’s photo library right from your Chromebook to make sharing and editing pictures easier.