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Google’s new innovative technology aims to combat online trolls

Don’t you hate it when you comment on an article to engage in a discussion and you’re attacked by online trolls? Or you want to read about others’ opinions yet all you seem to be able to find are toxic comments? Online hate speech is a real thing, and today Google is launching Perspective to identify and moderate these nasty comments.

See also:

Google Ideas is now Jigsaw

February 17, 2016

Google explains that 72 percent of American Internet users have witnessed harassment online, and almost half have experienced it first-hand. That’s a huge problem not only because it’s a source of fear that ultimately undermines freedom of speech, but it can cause serious psychological impacts on people, especially when there are 10-year-olds on social media.

Unfortunately, this kind of behavior also affects websites – in particular news organizations that want to “encourage engagement and discussion around their content.” The problem is that with so many trolls out there, sorting through millions of comments to get rid of abusive ones could be very costly in terms of money, labor, and time. That’s why some sites don’t even have comment sections, sadly.

The problem is that with so many trolls out there, sorting through millions of comments to get rid of abusive ones could be very costly in terms of money, labor, and time.

That’s where Perspective comes in: Google and Jigsaw describe it as “an early-stage technology that uses machine learning to help identity toxic comments.” Similar to other Google platforms, it’ll be available as an API which can be used by publishers on their sites. What it does is relatively simple: Perspective examined hundreds of thousands of comments that are labeled abusive by human reviewers and uses that to compare new comments and evaluate their toxicity. Of course, the more types of comments it finds, the better it gets at accurately scoring future ones.

The cool thing about Perspective is how publishers can incorporate it into their websites. The first method is pretty straight-forward: Perspective could flag potentially abusive comments and human moderators can have the ultimate say. Or the publisher could let commenters see the level of toxicity of their comments as they write them, using Perspective. Or – I, for one, think this would be particularly useful – publishers could allow readers to sort comments by toxicity, making it easier for them to find real content.

Using Perspective, publishers could allow readers to sort comments by toxicity, making it easier for them to find real content.

Google is currently working with The New York Times and says that although it’s still in the development phase, it will get more accurate and sophisticated over time – sophisticated enough to identify not just toxic comments but off-topic comments even in other languages.

Do you think Perspective will help improve online conversations? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below (and please, no trolling).

Google Play Music version 7.4 adds “recents” option, song count now stands at 40 million

In the latest Google Play Music update, Google has added a “recents” option to the menu where you’ll find all your last played songs. The feature isn’t new as far as music apps are concerned but it is the first time it has appeared in Google’s music streaming service. What’s more, Google Play Music now boasts 40 million songs, up five million on the previous count.

The update comes as part of the Google Play Music version 7.4 update, which should be rolling out in the Play Store soon, and also brings a handful of other small tweaks, such as a new animation when you press play.

It’s not a huge update but it’s Google’s small refinements that helped form our decision when deciding upon the best music streaming service back in December. And if you’re considering getting a Google Play Music subscription, now is a good time — the current offer is $9.99 per month with the first four months free.

Download Google Play Music

Previous Updates

Google Play Music UI overhaul 

November 16, 2017: Google has rolled out a complete upgrade to the UI of its Google Play Music streaming service. The changes make it easier to search and discover new music, with clearer recommendations, but it has also improved the algorithms used to make suggestions. What’s more, Google has added offline streaming playlists which are loaded with your most recently played tracks.

LG Watch Sport and Watch Style review

Android Wear 2.0 has finally come, and it brings with it a lot of enhancements that were sorely needed in Google’s wearable platform. But before we even get to the new bits in the software, let’s talk about one of the first smartwatches that bring Android Wear 2.0 to the masses. Both are able to leverage certain features from the new platform, making them a good showcase for the future of wearables in Google’s perspective.

This is a review of the LG Watch Sport and the LG Watch Style.

See also:

Android Wear 2.0 announced – everything you need to know

2 weeks ago

Quick note: This review and its score focuses on the LG Watch Sport, as it is the more featured-packed watch and it showcases all of the features that Wear 2.0 brings to the table. The LG Watch Style lacks a few of these features, but we will only touch upon it where applicable.

Design

The LG Watch Sport is definitely the chunkier of the two devices, and its size is likely to put off some of the more casual users of Android Wear. Its larger body helps to house a number of additions, like an upgraded microphone/speaker combo compared to the Style, a SIM card for cellular network activity outside of just Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, the heart rate monitor, and a couple extra buttons.

Those buttons come alongside the new rotating crown, which is a wonderful new way of navigating around the interface. While it is not a new idea, it is an addition that Wear has sorely needed. Much of the navigation still relies on touching and swiping on the screen, but the crown is great where it counts – scrolling through different elements and reading long notifications. The two buttons that flank the crown are programmable shortcuts, but by default they activate Google Fit workout tracking and Android Pay.

LG Watch Sport and Watch Style review

Turning the body of the LG Watch Sport shows the heart rate monitor, but the entire backing can be removed using a special tool included in the box. This exposes the SIM card tray and the actual module for the heart rate monitor. This explains the larger size of the body.

The size of the watch is not one of its better points – even for me, the watch is a little bigger than is truly comfortable and this large form factor looks to be a trend for Android Wear 2.0 enabled watches, especially those that are going to bring more than the bare minimum of features. The other sore point for the Sport is the fact that the bands cannot be changed – this isn’t a huge deal for the most part as the watch looks pretty good already, but it definitely lowers the customization aspect quite a bit.

LG Watch Sport and Watch Style review

Speaking of the bare minimum, enter the LG Watch Style. Our own David Imel wore the watch for a number of days and felt that it was definitely more accessible for the less hardcore user. The Style sacrifices the heart rate monitor, SIM card support, extra buttons, and Android Pay support in order to provide the barebones experience – it is definitely just a smart wearable notification center.

What was odd to us was how stiff the band felt due to its connection mechanism – the flat profile of the watch would bleed off of our wrists and then the band comes down at a sharp angle. Those bands can be changed, however, compared to the all-inclusive package of the Sport.

LG Watch Sport and Watch Style review

Overall, the LG Watch Style is smaller and definitely less conspicuous, but it also comes off looking a little too generic for its own good. That’s mostly okay though – it is less about the hardware and more about the software that it is powering.

Display

Both watches sport full touchscreen displays, though the Sport is a bit bigger with a 1.38-inch 480×480 resolution screen, compared to the 1.2-inch 360×360 resolution panel of the Style. Both screens are protected by Gorilla Glass 3. That larger screen on the Sport is definitely appreciated for longer form notifications and navigation, but the Style is still reliable enough for the same tasks like swiping on the new Wear 2.0 reply keyboard. David felt that the responsiveness of the display on the Style had a few periodic hiccups, but I didn’t have those issues with the LG Watch Sport.

LG Watch Sport and Watch Style review

Always-on display functionality is, of course, available and is a nice way of keeping the watch presentable when not in use, but it will obviously bring down the battery life quite a bit. Brightness is also not a problem for either of these devices, as they both remained viewable even in broad daylight.

Android Wear 2.0 gets more of the credit for leveraging the screen space better, but we give credit where credit is due and award the Sport some good points for a high-end display experience.

Hardware

As it has probably become really clear by now, the LG Watch Style is lacking a lot of the features that we are about to mention from the Watch Sport. It is best used as a notification-centric app-enabled wearable – you won’t be tracking too much fitness with it despite a IP67 rating, which is itself even outmatched by the IP68 depth resistance rating of the Sport.

Android Wear 2.0 doesn’t require the kind of power that regular Android on smartphones needs, but that doesn’t keep the LG Watch Sport from providing as much as it possibly can. Both it and the Style sport the same Snapdragon Wear chipsets, but the Watch Sport brings 768MB of RAM over the 512 of the Watch Style. There has hardly been any issue with either of the watches, as apps and interface elements all slide in and out smoothly. Notifications, in particular, have had no hiccups when coming in and acting up on them.

LG Watch Sport and Watch Style review

Storage is a relatively new thing in the wearable space, and both watches have 4GB that can be used for storing local music files. From there, users can connect Bluetooth headphones to the watch in order to listen during workouts or just in general.

The Watch Sport has support for cellular networks, and it can be leveraged in a couple different ways – a separate SIM card that connects to all networks or one that is set up via services like AT&T Numbersync, which allows your phone’s number to be mirrored to the watch for usage outside the paired range. Taking calls on the Sport is serviceable, then, but is definitely something we found best used in a pinch, rather than as the main way of talking.

Android Pay is new to Wear 2.0 and the LG Watch Sport is the one to get if you want to pay at stores using your wrist. It works well enough – just press the bottom button to trigger it, pick a card, and hold up the NFC enabled watch to any support terminal. Especially if you are already using Android Pay, this feels even more like the future is at our fingertips, or on our wrists, in this case.

LG Watch Sport and Watch Style review

Fitness is a bigger focus in Wear 2.0, and the Watch Sport includes GPS alongside all of the connectivity options for tracking hikes, runs, and walks. The heart rate monitor is about as good as it can be for a wrist mounted unit, and adds to the fitness data that Google Fit records. Google Fit on Wear has been given more workouts that could please weightlifters too, as the watch tries to understand and record when reps of any given movement occur. However, a large watch like this might not make the most sense in certain fitness situations.

LG Watch Sport and Watch Style review

Battery life obviously favors the larger device, but the Sport also has a lot more features to power. The Watch Sport has a 430mAh battery over the 240 unit of the Watch Style. A charging cradle takes care of getting the battery up to speed for the Sport, but charging the device takes upwards of two hours – this makes quickly topping up the watch with power a little bit tougher than we would have liked. While David had just over a day’s worth of battery life even with a fair bit of usage throughout, I found that the Sport required a little more diligence to get over the one day hump.

LG Watch Sport and Watch Style review

Always-on Display is a big battery drain, but to make sure that I got a day and a half from the Sport, I also turned off the Gesture to Wake feature. That way, the watch display would not light up after most movements of my wrist – that would only happen if I hit the button. Without these measures, the watch would get through a solid workday but would require a top up in power before bed if I wanted to track sleep using Sleep as Android.

Software

Which brings us to the software, the portion of this review that has gotten the biggest update from previous Android Wear devices. It took quite a while, but Google has finally brought refinements to the platform that were sorely needed. Not only does it look a lot better, but functionality has been given a big boost in Android Wear 2.0.

Let’s start with the watchfaces, the first thing that users see. “Complications” is a weird name to use for this new functionality, but Android Wear 2.0 now allows developers to leverage appropriate parts of the watchface to show off data from their applications, making each compatible watchface that much more useful at a glance. Not all watchfaces support this yet, but that is the nature of software upgrades.

LG Watch Sport and Watch Style review

And this holds true for the updated app ecosystem, as well. Android Wear basically has its own Play Store that is accessed on the watch itself, and apps can be installed on the watch without needing to use the phone. This comes in a couple different flavors – general searching and discovery in the Wear Play Store to find apps or via a populated list that matches watch applications to ones that are already installed on the paired smartphone. A ton of apps found in the Wear Play Store are still just companions to their smartphone counterparts, but that should change overtime – having a functional, standalone watch version of Google Maps or Hangouts is pretty nifty, and we’re looking forward to seeing this continued evolution.

On the functionality front, Google Assistant has also been included in the Wear 2.0 update, bolstering the voice enabled searches and actions of these smart wearables that much better. Plenty of useful functions have been transferred over to the convenience of the wrist, including asking simple questions and activating different installed applications.

LG Watch Sport and Watch Style review

All of these new features come in a shell that looks a lot better, thanks to a move toward Material Design and a streamlining of the interface at large. I have maligned the cards method of notifications in Android Wear for a while now, and I’m personally very happy to see them go away. Notifications first show up over the watchface for a few seconds before tucking away underneath, to be scrolled up using swipes of the rotating dial. Though they are still a one-by-one setup, making notifications full screen instead of cards that needed so many extra taps and swipes is a proper step forward.

Not to mention the updates to mainly messaging actions that have been added in – responses don’t have to rely on mainly voice input anymore, as a full keyboard can be swiped on for text responding. Though the small screen doesn’t lend itself to the most comfortable keyboard experience, it is serviceable enough when users take the time to get it right.

LG Watch Sport and Watch Style review

And that is basically the crux of the new Android Wear software – and, ostensibly, the devices: Wear was always a “make it work for you” platform, but now the 2.0 update makes that diligence a little easier to bear. Minimizing the number of taps and swipes required to get stuff done on the LG Watch Sport and Style have made them better smart wearable companions than pretty much any previous Android Wear device that we’ve used in the last two years since the wearable OS’ inception.

LG Watch Sport and Watch Style review

Wrap up

Unfortunately, all of that good still comes at a rather high asking price – the LG Watch Style is obviously the less expensive of the two, starting at $249. The feature-packed Watch Sport is $349 on the Google Play Store, putting it squarely in competition with other fitness oriented Android Wear devices and the Tizen powered Samsung Gear S3. But in either respect, the watches are still a bit steep in price for anyone that isn’t already big on smartwatches. Especially to enjoy all that Android Wear 2.0 has to offer, having to pay almost half of what a smartphone costs is a tough sell for new adopters of smart wearables.

See also:

Best smartwatches (February 2017)

2 weeks ago

The Watch Style will be a better fit for those who want a more accessible experience all-around, but users who opt for it have to accept its omissions. That said, the LG Watch Sport is a great showcase of Wear 2.0, itself an update that should make any Android Wear user quite happy. If you have a watch that will not be getting the update to Wear 2.0, moving to a newer wearable is highly recommended – and we’ve already been given a great device for doing just that.

The LG Watch Sport is a great showcase of Wear 2.0, itself an update that should make any Android Wear user quite happy.

Is this silly game a hint that the next Android version will be Oreo?

As you may know, Google always names a new version of Android after a sweet and tasty treat. These include Jelly Bean, KitKat, Lollipop, Marshmallow, and the latest Nougat. We already know that the name of the next version of Android (8.0) will start with the letter O, but we don’t know for sure what it will be called.

A few days ago, Hiroshi Lockheimer, the senior vice president of Android at Google, posted a GIF of an Oreo cake on his Twitter account, which some took a hint that the next version of Android would be called Oreo. This has now been backed up by a new game that was released by Mondelez, the company that owns the Oreo brand.

The game, which is called Oreo Space Dunk, was developed in partnership with the online search giant and uses Google Earth data. It is quite simple to play. You first have to take a photo of an Oreo cookie, share your location, and throw an Oreo in the air with the help of your smartphone. You then watch the cookie fly into the air and land in a glass of milk in a different part of the world.

See also:

New Android distribution numbers ditch Froyo and show small Nougat rise

January 10, 2017

So, does the partnership between Mondelez and Google confirm that the new Android will be called Oreo? Well, not really. It is possible, but we won’t know for sure until the official announcement, which will probably happen in June at the earliest. Just keep in mind that about a year ago, Hiroshi Lockheimer also hinted that the next version of Android (7.0) will be called Nutella. That obviously didn’t happen, so you might want to take the Android Oreo rumors with a grain of salt.

If you want to try out the new game, visit oreospacedunk.com on your mobile device or click the button below.

Play the game

Some Google Pixel and Pixel XL owners report new Bluetooth disconnect issues

The series of odd bugs that have been showing up in the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones seems to be continuing. A growing number of people who own these phones have been posting word of experiencing random Bluetooth disconnection issues in the past several days.

See also:

Best Google Pixel Accessories

January 18, 2017

The reports themselves, as posted on both Reddit and Google’s own support forums, are similar in their symptoms. One person wrote in the company’s support forums, “Just about every morning my Bluetooth is off. I do not power down at night. I have tried to restart and I am still having the same problem.”

Some people have speculated that one of the reasons for these issues popping up this month may related to the rolling out of Google’s February 2017 security patches, which started to roll out about two weeks ago. So far, Google has not indicated it is aware of the Bluetooth disconnect issue, but hopefully this annoying bug will be dealt with soon.

This is not the first small but strange issue that has cropped up on the new Pixel phones since they were first launched in October. Many people have reported their phones unexpectedly shut down after reaching the 30 percent battery life level. Google appears to be planning to fix this problem in an upcoming patch.

If you own a Pixel or Pixel XL, has your Bluetooth connection shut down by itself since the release of the February 2017 security patches? If so, let us know if you are experiencing the same weird bug in the comments!

Google I/O 2017 registration is now open!

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Google I/O is where the Search Giant announces some of its hottest products, updates developers on the latest code trends and comes together with the community. The yearly event is one of the most important in the tech industry. Needless to say it is not easy to get in, but those who want to give it a try can now turn in their applications!

The attendance process for Google I/O 2017 has begun as Google begins accepting applications. You have until February 27th at 5 PM PST to get yours in. No need to rush to your computer, though, as applicants are now chosen at random. We still remember the days when this was pretty much a race and tickets would run out in a matter of minutes. Not to mention accessing the site during that time was a mess, due to the insane amounts of traffic.

Anyway – those times are gone and now you can take your time with the application. Chosen ones will receive their tickets on the 28th, via email. Of course, that would be after being charged the hefty entrance fee. General admission tickets go for $1150 but students can get in for $375. Be ready to pay!

Looking to sign up? Just head to the Google I/O 2017 sign-up page linked in the button below.

Sign up for Google IO 2017

Google has worked out how to make VR headsets invisible in mixed reality

This article first appeared on our sister site, VR Source.

One of the problems of mixed reality (MR) — where a person is superimposed into a VR setting — is that the faces of those inside the system are obscured by the VR headset: if you watch someone in VR, you can’t see their facial expressions. One way to try and address this is with a digital avatar stand in, but some clever folks from Google Research and Google Daydream Labs have achieved a more realistic solution.

As outlined in a recent Google blog post, Google has created a technique using “a combination of machine learning, 3D computer vision, and advanced rendering techniques” to remove the headset from mixed reality. The process involves making a “dynamic” 3D model of a person’s face, tracking their eye movements and then compiling the visuals in the virtual space: the result is a realistic representation of what the headset wearer may be expressing and where they may be looking, as you can see in the GIF below.

Google has worked out how to make VR headsets invisible in mixed reality

Though the outline of the VR headset doesn’t need to be included, Google said it added it as a way of slightly obscuring the face to avoid an “uncanny valley” effect.

It still looks slightly strange and artificial but it’s a big step for mixed reality. The lack of these visuals has been one of the major caveats of the platform, as it makes interactions in that space more akin to a telephone interaction (i.e. lacking in the social signals provided by facial expressions). This could bring us closer — not there, but closer — to the real reaction of friends or family in a virtual space: and I find the implications of that incredibly exciting.

Google confirms some Project Fi users are testing VoLTE features

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We haven’t heard much about Project Fi lately in terms of Google adding new features to its MVNO carrier. Today, however, the company has confirmed what has been rumored for a little while. It stated that a small number of Project Fi customers are currently testing its new Voice over LTE (VoLTE) features.

See also:

State of Mobile Networks: USA 2017

2 weeks ago

In a post on Google’s support forums, the company stated that the VoLTE testing has in fact been underway for a few weeks now. If you are a Project Fi customer, you can see if your phone is among those involved in the test. If your phone’s signal still shows it is connected to your LTE network when you make or receive a phone call, you are all in with the VoLTE test. Google claims that those phones should be able to get higher quality voice calls over the LTE network, along with faster web browsing while you make any calls. Finally, VoLTE support should also include faster call setup.

Project Fi works with the networks of Sprint, T-Mobile and US Cellular and is compatible with Google’s older Nexus phones and its newer Pixel and Pixel XL handsets. However, you should keep in mind that only Project Fi phones that connect to T-Mobile’s network currently have support for the new VoLTE features. There’s no word on when VoLTE will be added to Sprint or US Cellular, and there’s also no indication on when Google plans to expand its test to more users. It did say that it will “continue to keep you informed as we progress with our testing.”

If you are on Project Fi and are using T-Mobile’s network, has your phone been chosen to particulate in the VoLTE test? If so, please let us know your impressions of the voice calls on your handset in the comments!

Qualcomm to announce LTE chipset for Google’s IoT, Android Things

You may have heard a thing or two about the Internet of Things (IoT): it’s where electronic devices are connected via the Internet, communicating with one another in a smart way whether it’s a Google Home device or a Samsung smart refrigerator. Well, Google has its own version called Android Things, with a special focus on the security side of things, and Qualcomm just announced its plans to add support for Google’s IoT OS on its Snapdragon 210 processors.

See also:

What is Android Things? – Gary explains

January 13, 2017

This quad-core CPU will be coupled with Adreno 304 GPU, supporting media up to 1080p resolution and cameras up to 8 megapixels.

The Snapdragon 210 chipset will come with integrated 4G LTE support. This quad-core CPU will be coupled with Adreno 304 GPU, supporting media up to 1080p resolution and cameras up to 8 megapixels. According to Qualcomm, this will be ideal for cost-effective and large-scale IoT solutions, ranging from businesses to your home:

The Android Things OS is a new vertical of Android designed for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and Snapdragon processors are expected to be the world’s first commercial System-on-Chip (SoC) solutions to offer integrated 4G LTE support for this OS. This combination is designed to support a new class of IoT applications requiring robust, security-focused and managed connectivity including electronic signage, remote video monitoring, asset tracking, payment and vending machines and manufacturing, as well as consumer devices such as smart assistants and home appliances.

Qualcomm is expected to demonstrate Android Things running on Snapdragon 210 at MWC this weekend.

Although the new processor for the Android Things OS sounds like an excellent entry-level chipset for Google’s IoT platform, I for one hope to see other companies follow suit: after all, IoT is often hailed as the next technological revolution, and as we already saw with the rumored absence of Snapdragon 835 in the LG G6, a lack of competition could ultimately limit consumer choices in a detrimental way.

Google said to be working on “refresh” button for updates in the Play Store

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Google is reportedly working on implementing a refresh button into the Google Play Store in the My Apps & Games screen, according to information from Android Police. The button would provide a manual way to re-scan the Play Store for potential updates, without having to exit the app.

Currently, when you access the My Apps & Games screen (found in the Play Store menu) you will be presented with a list of your apps and whether they are up to date or a newer version is available.

Though this screen is usually up-to-date when you access it, you must close the app and then open it again if you want to refresh it. It’s not a big deal — in fact, it’s a pretty small deal in the grand scheme of things — but when you’re waiting on a specific update to arrive there’s no way to quickly refresh the page to see if any new updates have landed.

See also:

Google seeking input on what to do with Pixel 2

3 days ago

The refresh button would change that and it’s said to now be in testing, potentially for deployment in a future version of Google Play. It’s not clear if it definitely will roll out, but it’s only a subtle UI tweak anyway, right?