Google I/O took place earlier this month, and all the products, features, and announcements revealed at the annual developer conference are still fresh on our mind. One thing that really stood out during the keynote was just how often the term “AI” was uttered on the stage. If you’ve been wondering like us, it was 149 times — someone actually did the math, interestingly, without any help from AI. Google showed off some impressive tools that can draft an email from just a brief prompt and act a helping hand in Google Workspace. All this sounds positively tantalizing, making us want to try out each one of these AI features right away.
But as Google races to catch up to the flood of generative tools with its own AI offerings, some existing apps and services feel left behind — when, instead, they could really benefit from all that artificial intelligence. For as much as we love Google apps and services, it’s not unoften that one fails to accomplish things exactly as we hoped, leaving us a bit frustrated. And we want Google to use AI to fix somet of these day-to-day features before moving on to fancier stuff.
1 Gboard has little clue what you’re typing
We live in a world where AI can create full-blown articles using a simple promprt, but still struggles to accurately predict what you’re typing. Gboard, the default keyboard on Android, is perhaps the best one out there, but it can also get moody and occasionally unreliable.
For instance, I prefer swipe typing for its speed, especially when using the phone one-handed, but Gboard often fails to catch the correct word. It also recently started to randomly capitalize words in the middle of a sentence, forcing me to go back and fix them, negating any speed benefits. This is particularly a problem for multilinguals who usually have more than one Gboard languages enabled.
The text suggestion bar also sometimes recommends words that completely defy any grammatical sense in context to the sentence you’re typing. But every Gboard user doesn’t face the same kind or level of issues — some don’t even face any problems at all. While Google has been trying to refine its AI prediction algorythms for years to account for any human errors while speed typing or swiping, the issues many of us continue to face indicate there’s still room for improvement.
2 Help me
write clean, Gmail
The introduction of Help me write for Gmail was among the most euphoric moments for me watching the Google I/O stage (right behind the dark theme for Bard). But if we take a few steps back, we’ll notice that our Gmail inboxes are brimming with thousands of unread and unnecessary junk emails. Gmail does offer filters that can help you cut through some of that noise — say, to show only promotional emails from a certain brand received after a certain date. These handy filters are available even on the simple-looking Gmail app for Android.
But the problem is that many Gmail users don’t even know they have such tools at their disposal, and the syntax needed to configure them is too complicated for those not technically inclined. Artificial intelligence could help billions of Gmail users by automating some of the sorting based on email’s content, and recommending the deletion of old stuff like, we see in the Files by Google app. Maybe Google could let people create their own automation recipes, along with sharing a few preset ones that everyone can use to neatly sort their email inbox.
3 Make smart speakers smart again
Even though voice assistant-powered speakers are here to stay (at least for a few more years), they are losing a bit of steam and don’t feel like they get nearly the same attention from Google (or Amazon, for that matter) as they used to just a couple of years back. Like Gboard, the Assistant experience varies wildly across users and devices, and these so-called smart speakers aren’t proving to be all that smart lately.
There have been so many occasions when I ask my Google Home speaker to do something, and it starts playing a random song from YouTube Music. It’d set the alarm for the evening instead of morning, suggest a rephrased version of my query and still return a blatant “Sorry, I don’t have any information about that,” or even repeat the same answer it previously gave. The list only gets longer and more frustrating the more you interact.
Google Assistant on smart speakers could desperately use all the more impressive AI capabilities we’ve seen on newer Google products. These smart speakers are supposed to make our lives easier and not make us pull our hair out while trying to make simple things work.
4 Beef up Google Photos search
Google Photos is by far the smartest photo management app, and a big part of that experience comes from its capable search tool. But search in Photos hasn’t seen a major overhaul since it was first introduced years ago. Google did recently add complex searches to the mix, letting you look up a person at the beach or a colorful sunset, but Photos should be able to do more than that after all these years.
One major gripe with Photos search is that it works well only with a set of standard keywords, and if you use a substitute word or phrase, you won’t get the same results, and could maybe even miss out entirely on a few of your shots. For instance, you can search for birds in general, but Photos currently struggles to find specific species — we see something similar when searching for a particular car make and model, and Photos will often mix up the results.
How you type your query can also vary your results considerably. But languages are complex and used differently in every part of the world, which is true even for a widely spoken language like English, making it important for Photos to understand the context to provide better results. And if you think about it, Google Search has been doing that for years, so it shouldn’t be that difficult for Google to do something similar here.
5 Nip those damned spam calls and texts in the bud
Spam calls and texts are the bane of the modern world. Google does have a few nifty tools to tackle those, like Call Screening and the spam alert built into the company’s dialer app. But both of them have their own shortcomings. For instance, Call Screening is neither available for most non-Pixel phones nor outside a handful of countries, while the spam alerts are iffy at best.
There are also times when the Google Phone app marks important calls as spam, making its junk tags hard to rely on. As a result, you’re left at the mercy of third-party tools like Truecaller, which may be far more reliable but is notorious for its privacy-invasive ways of managing spam calls.
Spam turned into a menace on Google Messages, too, as brands started to use RCS to flood your inbox with pushy ads. There are ways to combat that as well, but again, such solutions from the user’s end cannot keep up with all the new methods spammers continue to devise. With automated and more capable spam management measures along the lines of what we suggested for Gmail earlier, Google could make texts and calls less of a hassle for many Android users.
Google’s AI is rapidly improving — and so should its products
A good artificial intelligence system should constantly be learning, training itself on your behavior and interactions with the app, all in the aim of improving your user experience. Predictive AI has long been a core component of many everyday Google services, ranging from Assistant to Gboard, but it’s this new era of generative AI that has us really excited, creating new content seemingly from scratch — and doing so well at it that AI-generated stuff has started to look eerily real.
While those are two very different applications, the good-old predictive AI that we come across more commonly can benefit from the self-aware properties of Google’s generative AI initiatives. Maybe Gmail could create custom automation recipes for you based on your usage or Google Photos could look up tagged people by the specifics of their outfit. We hope to see such improvements come to our favorite Google services sooner rather than later as we await some transformative AI applications that are beyond our imagination today.
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