The Latest: Google messaging app with voice assistant

AP News
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Posted: May 18, 2016 2:10 PM
The Latest: Google messaging app with voice assistant

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — The Latest from Google's software conference (all times local):

10:50 a.m.

A messaging app that incorporates Google's new voice assistant? Say "hello" to Allo.

The company unveiled the new app at its annual conference for software developers in Mountain View, California, on Wednesday. The app, available this summer on both Android and rival Apple phones, allows chatting partners to look up restaurant options and even book a table right in the app.

It also gives users an array of emojis and stickers and the option to increase or decrease the size of text to add emphasis.

Allo also gives a range of automated responses to questions and even photos, recognizing things like food and dog breeds.

In a smack at Snapchat, Allo also features an "incognito" mode that adds end-to-end encryption and allows a person to set a timer on when their chat messages disappear.

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10:30 a.m.

Following in Amazon's footsteps, Google is unveiling a smart home assistant that lets people listen to music and podcasts, as well as manage tasks such as setting alarms and compiling shopping lists, throughout their home.

Called Google Home, the Internet-connected device lets users control it with their voice to listen to music and control lights and thermostats in the home, for example.

Mario Queiroz, a vice president at Google, says the sleek, flower pot-like device also lets you ask Google about "anything you want."

Google says that unlike other home assistants, Home will work with other speakers in the house too.

In the future, Google says the device could let users control things outside of their home too.

The company has not yet named a price, but says it will be available later this year. Sounds familiar? Home echoes Amazon's Echo, a voice-controlled smart speaker.

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9 a.m.

Google's bare-bones entry into the still-nascent field of virtual reality came two years ago when it unveiled a cheap headset made out of cardboard.

The company may now be poised to get more serious, given far more sophisticated options available for sale, including the Oculus Rift from rival Facebook.

Analysts are touting virtual reality, a technology that casts its users into artificial, three-dimensional worlds, as one of the industry's most promising areas for growth.

Google is keeping plans for Wednesday's software conference under wraps, but the agenda offers several hints: Virtual reality and artificial intelligence, or "machine learning," will be among the focal points.

The three-day conference is taking place in Mountain View, California.

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7:40 a.m.

While virtual reality and artificial intelligence are expected to be big, the core of Google's annual conference is its software — namely the Android system powering 80 percent of the world's smartphones.

Google's three-day conference, called Google I/O, starts Wednesday in Mountain View, California.

Google gives Android away for free to device makers. Google designs it to highlight its search engine, maps and other features, giving the company more opportunities to sell the digital ads that generate most of its revenue.

The bias toward Google's own services is now the subject of antitrust investigation by European regulators trying to determine whether the company is stifling competition in the increasingly important mobile market.

Besides updates for the phone, Google is likely to unveil new features coming to other gadgets such as Android Wear smartwatches and possibly Android TV streaming devices.

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2 a.m.

Google's mobile payment service, Android Pay, is coming to the U.K., marking its first expansion outside the U.S.

On Wednesday, Google joins Apple Pay, which launched in the U.K. nearly a year ago.

With both services, users merely tap a phone next to a store's payment reader to charge a credit or debit card. But it works only with stores that have newer wireless readers called NFC.

Another challenge has been persuading consumers that it's easier than pulling out a plastic card for payment.

Apple Pay is also in China, Canada, Australia and Singapore, with Hong Kong and Spain to come. Google says Android Pay will expand to Singapore and Australia this year.

Android Pay's expansion comes as Google holds its annual conference for software developers in Mountain View, California.

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9 p.m. Thursday

Google is expected to dive deeper into virtual reality and artificial intelligence during an annual conference that serves as a launching pad for its latest products and innovations.

The three-day Google I/O conference in Mountain View, California, starts Wednesday.

Google is keeping its plans under wraps, but the conference agenda makes it clear that virtual reality and artificial intelligence, or "machine learning," will be among the focal points.

That has spurred speculation that Google will release a virtual-reality device to compete with Facebook's new Oculus Rift headset, as well as Samsung's Gear VR. Analysts also believe Google may release an artificial-intelligent gadget to compete with Amazon's Echo, which is a cylinder-like device that includes a virtual assistant named Alexa.