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Google Introduces New Android Features 271

Posted by timothy
from the so-advanced-you-don't-even-need-it dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "Google introduced the next generation of interaction with its Android operating system by introducing a set of new features. The most prominent one is the voice-driven actions. Google executives outlined 12 new 'Voice Actions for Android,' including phone calls, reminder e-mails, direction search, and music search. The app is called 'Voice Search,' requires Android 2.2, and is available in the Android Market now. Voice actions can be triggered by clicking the 'microphone' icon on the screen. Saying 'call John Smith at home' will trigger the contacts list and voice dialer, 'find art museums in Amsterdam' would launch a Google Maps application, and 'listen to Ace of Base' will search for music from the artist on Pandora, Last.fm, or another music application. Another improvement worth a mention is 'Chrome to Phone,' allows users to click on a new 'mobile phone' icon to send links, YouTube videos, even directions, to the phone. So far, the features are exclusive to Android phones and US English, although the capabilities will be moved to other languages and other operating systems (including the iPhone) in the future." Add reader CWmike: "JR Raphael takes a first look at Voice Actions for Android, and tells you how to get voice control even if you are not on Froyo."
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Google Introduces New Android Features

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  • by pirot (894930) * on Thursday August 12, 2010 @05:55PM (#33233518)
    My most common command to my Google Nexus phone is: "Please (beeeeep) battery, do not die. It's been just 3 hours since I fully charged you." I hope that the next generation of Android will teach the phone to obey.
    • Re:Please don'd die (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jesterboy (106813) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @06:29PM (#33233796)

      My most common command to my Google Nexus phone is: "Please (beeeeep) battery, do not die. It's been just 3 hours since I fully charged you." I hope that the next generation of Android will teach the phone to obey.

      You're exaggerating by quite a bit or you have a broken phone. I got ~30 hours on a single charge running stock Nexus One ROM. I am currently running Cyanogenmod 6.0-RC2, and after 8.5 hours of a few calls, a few Youtube/Flash videos and a whole lot of internet browsing I still have 71% charge left.

      Maybe you have the brightness cranked to the highest setting? Enabling Automatic Brightness (Settings->Display->Brightness in Cyanogen; probably the same in stock) will make the biggest difference in battery life. Although, even running it at the highest brightness setting, I've managed somewhere over 12 hours of time after a full charge.

      • by tyrione (134248)

        My most common command to my Google Nexus phone is: "Please (beeeeep) battery, do not die. It's been just 3 hours since I fully charged you." I hope that the next generation of Android will teach the phone to obey.

        You're exaggerating by quite a bit or you have a broken phone. I got ~30 hours on a single charge running stock Nexus One ROM. I am currently running Cyanogenmod 6.0-RC2, and after 8.5 hours of a few calls, a few Youtube/Flash videos and a whole lot of internet browsing I still have 71% charge left.

        Maybe you have the brightness cranked to the highest setting? Enabling Automatic Brightness (Settings->Display->Brightness in Cyanogen; probably the same in stock) will make the biggest difference in battery life. Although, even running it at the highest brightness setting, I've managed somewhere over 12 hours of time after a full charge.

        I believe he's citing actual continuous talk time, not idle time.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Who the hell is on the phone for 3 hours? I don't talk that much on the damn thing in a month.

          • Well apparently some people have friends and colleagues that like to call them and have discussions. While others apparently are loners and use their phone only to order take out.
            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              Some of us go over to peoples homes or speak to them outside of our basement dwellings. You can often arrange to meet people in bars, restaurants and other social places .... The More You Know!

      • Re:Please don'd die (Score:4, Informative)

        by victorhooi (830021) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @08:07PM (#33234540)

        heya,

        Actually, I don't think he's necessarily lying, he just didn't give enough details on what exactly he's doing with it. No need for the Android fanboys to go lynch him because he insulted your dear Android...haha...

        I have a new Google Nexus One, and the battery life is appalling - I get maybe what, around eight hours, before it's down to the 15% warning? This is on automatic brightness, the occasional web surfing, some SMS-ing and light calls, and no wifi. Also, this is in the city, with nearly full reception (in low reception areas, I assume it boosts transmit power). I'm essentially permanently tethered to either the dock on my desk, or a handy power point *sigh*.

        My best friend also has one (we bought it together), and her battery life is similarly appalling, although slightly better since she turns the brightness down to minimum, and doesn't really make any calls.

        I love the phone, I just wish the battery life wasn't so abysmal.

        Cheers,
        Victor

  • Yay (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 12, 2010 @05:55PM (#33233526)

    I wonder if this will work as good as my Google Voice recognition... recent message: "Not long way because I thought they were. What slobs. I know that there is You know one before the other but sorry about the got a computer Yeah, and Over. For for."

    Can't wait to see these voice actions in action!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Doesn't matter what the new features are. Verizon & friends will rip them out and replace them with pay-to-play versions.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by h4rr4r (612664)

        They have not been doing that recently, all the android phones have google navigation instead of the verizon thing.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      It actually works really well, it only likes short English words though. It does not like German words used in English for one, both schadenfreude and Reinheitsgebot failed

    • Voice recognition is much easier when you limit the vocabulary to a finite set of commands.

      That said, I've never really seen the value of voice commands and voice recognition. It's one of those things that people get super-excited about because it seems all science-fictiony, but it's a poorly performing solution in search of a problem.

  • by stevew (4845) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @05:56PM (#33233530) Journal

    This feature is really part of the upgrade to the bluetooth stack me thinks. Up until now, there was no way to do voice dialing with Android phones. There was a problem in the bluetooth stack (as explained by a little birdie who lives at google to me some months ago.) Android 2.2 can now perform this action even though my old Samsung phone has had the feature for 2 years Plus..

    • I certainly hope so. I was really disappointed to find that voice dialing did not work on the Android, even though my old Motorola...whatever it was, the next step down from the RAZR, I think...did voice dialing over bluetooth just fine. I've got a bluetooth headset on my motorcycle helmet, and, well, it's difficult to pull the phone out of a zippered pocket, dial the phone number on a touch screen and hold the phone during a call while on a bike :)

      (Cue the "don't ride and talk, you @#$!!! idiot!
    • What the iPhone has that feature for like a year. I thought all iPhone features were lame while all android features were superior. I guess it is just a different set of priorities.

      • Nope, it's not really partisan like that. It's more like the lack of basic features that have been simply taken for granted on competitors for years or even over a decade is lame.

        The iPhone was rightfully criticized for its lack of multitasking, or copy and paste, or 3G. Just like Android was rightfully criticized for its lack of voicedialing with Bluetooth.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    *tap*

    Picard to Enterprise.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dishevel (1105119)
      Always wondered. Why do they have to give origination data. One would think that the communicator already knows it is one Picard.

      It should just be *tap*

      Enterprise.

      Yes captain?

  • Executives (Score:2, Funny)

    by adewolf (524919)
    Why do these companies insist on having executives being their spokespersons. No one trusts them or believes a word out their mouths.
  • by deep9x (1068252) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @06:02PM (#33233594) Homepage
    If you had it previously installed, it'll silently just error out when you try to install the Marketplace version. Hopefully this comment will save 10 minutes of going "WTF?"
  • "Click microphone icon"
    • by s7uar7 (746699)
      But that would activate it every time someone near you says, "click, my crow phone, I con." It would be a lawsuit waiting to happen.
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @06:04PM (#33233616)

    While I congratulate Google on this achievement, I think Google and Android would be better served if there were better results when it comes to today's Android phones and battery life.

    Just imagine what the the headline "Android phones can now maintain battery capacity at greater than 80% after an average day of use" would create.

    The buzz and positive publicity with this kind of information would be priceless.

    • by MrHanky (141717)

      Even my X10 Mini can maintain battery life for 72 hours straight with limited use. Try turning off WLAN and Bluetooth when you don't use it, or change their power saving configuration, and turn down the brightness of your screen.

      • At least on Android 1.6 on my HTC Magic what sucks the most battery is scrolling! Yes, the normal finger swipe you do in about every application of the phone. Try installing a task viewer and watch the cpu cycles jump up to 80% for the simple act of moving around the screen. Either it's just my phone or there is something highly un-optimized in Android.
        • by MrHanky (141717)

          I replaced my home screen after reading that some people experienced better battery life. Used ADW.Launcher for some time, and now Zeam. (Yes, iPhone users, you can replace the whole "desktop" without rooting or even allowing apps from outside the market.) I have no idea whether it actually helped, but at least the UI is a bit more flexible now. And yes, I get several days of light use, and at least a whole one with playing games and watching Futurama.

        • Scrolling causes redraw. This is true of just about any application.
    • by hedwards (940851)
      Um, my Nexus One has perfectly fine battery life. Admittedly it isn't as good as my old Razr, but I don't have to plug it in every day unless I'm really using it a lot. Which is to be expected, really.
    • I'd be happy with 50% charge after an average workday of use...
  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @06:04PM (#33233618)
    User: "Tea. Earl Grey. Black"

    Android Phone: "Here I am, brain the size of a planet..." *Sigh*

    Hold on, maybe that's the new iPhone ad...

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Earl Grey is a black tea. You could have it hot if you wanted though.

    • by moreati (119629)

      Hold on, maybe that's the new iPhone ad...

      That one is "And then of course I've got this terrible pain in all the antennas down my left side."

  • by gilesjuk (604902)

    iPhone has had voice control since last year when 3GS was launched.

    I don't find such things useful, but I imagine for the disabled or car drivers it can be handy.

    • Re:Voice control (Score:5, Informative)

      by timeOday (582209) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @06:16PM (#33233690)
      How much voice control? "Find nearest gas station" sounds like a handy thing to do, without trying to peck away at a (virtual) keyboard while driving. (We'll assume the driver is using a dash mount [buy.com]). Does the iPhone do this? Maybe it does, I wouldn't know.

      Of course, it all hinges on how well it actually works. My Garmin 60 CS has the ability to search for "points of interest" (including gas stations). But searching is so clunky and inaccurate - especially compared to what we're now used to with google maps - you only use it when you really must.

      • I think the iPhone bing / google apps do?

        THe builtin voice control definitely does NOT do that. With builtin OS voice control you can dial from address book, dial by number, play songs (by artist, etc), maybe some other things I'm forgetting, but that's all I ever use.

        • While there are iPhone apps for doing voice search, they aren't integrated into the voice search on the iPhone.

          Assuming that it works similarly to speech recognition on the Mac, it recognizes a fixed list of words which can be followed by other words which can be followed by other words and so on.

          So, for example, the iPhone could hear "Find" and know that it needs to do a google search. It could hear "nearest" after find and know that it should only get map information from the Google search. "Gas Station

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Maybe a bit much for an iPhone, but my droid handles it fine. "Map of Gas Station" and it shows me the nearest one. "Navigate to Gas Station" gets me directions there.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>How much voice control? "Find nearest gas station"

        Given how terrible voice recognition is, I wouldn't want to rely on it for voice navigation anyway.

      • by Wraithlyn (133796)

        I've had some success with my iPhone doing voice searches, like "chinese restaurants", and it pulls up Google Maps with local results pinned.

        Of course, I am using the Google App for that. ;)

      • You can already do that -- and have been able to since the Motorola Droid launched last November. It's awesome, actually. If you're in the car dock, you just say "map gas stations" and it shows gas stations near where you are. "Navigate to nearest gas station" does exactly that. The droid + car dock is the coolest gadget ever; I had it streaming high-quality internet radio, navigating me to my destination, finding stuff I wanted nearby, and delivering my e-mail -- all at the same time.

        Oh, and it worked

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          So get a provide that uses sim cards and swap them at the end of the day. Odds are activesync is enabled on your mail server, so you even still get emails.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      It will send an email and take dictation for that email?

      Because that is what this does.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 12, 2010 @06:12PM (#33233670)

    Will trigger a pop-up on you calendar that says - in effect - "It is no longer 1996."

  • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @06:12PM (#33233676) Journal

    Actions are nice, but so is the ability to ask questions.

    On my iPhone, if I'm listening to my music, I can ask "What song is this?" and the phone will tell me the name of the song and the band playing it.

  • Now, on to fixes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anomalyx (1731404) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @06:19PM (#33233716)
    While Google tends to be better than others at prioritizing fixes vs enhancements, they seem to not be doing as well here.
    This achievement is certainly commendable, and congrats to Google on making an advanced voice command platform. But come on, I still can't set SMS or email reminders on my Google Calendar in the Calendar app! Or on the Google Calendar mobile site, for that matter!
    Sorry for picking on Calendar, but that's one thing that bugs me, because I use it all the time and have to either get on a computer or fumble around on the desktop site on my phone if I want to set my reminders.
    Oh yeah, battery life would be nice, too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rotide (1015173)

      Actually, for all the good Google has done on Android, one of my biggest pet peeves is something so simple, yet they haven't fixed it yet.

      Being able to move emails into folders through the mail app while using an exchange email server. This simple function basically neuters any real work email functionality. In their online tracker it is listed as a feature request and not a bug. Go figure.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        That is not a bug, just a new feature. A bug is when something is supposed to do one thing, but does not or does not do it well. A new feature is when you want something that has not been done so far to be implemented. Moving mail to folders is a good example.

        Either way, Moxier, Roadsync and touchdown all support this.

  • by funkylovemonkey (1866246) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @06:26PM (#33233772)
    The droid operating system has had voice commands for a long time now, my Droid 1 came with them back in December when I bought it. It's even been featured in commercials before. What this is isn't so much as a new program as it is a polished expansion of what was already there. They added more commands and those voice commands can now interact with other apps more easily. The voice recognition also seems improved, but I could be wrong since it was never a feature I used very much. The widget was also updated slightly. Really this is just one of many updates that have come with the release of 2.2 and the Droid 2.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      You could just update your droid and get this new feature. CM6 is quite nice.

  • With the search widget, which I assumed was built into Android itself, you can already do a myriad of similar tasks. I can call, pull up a contact, search, get directions, and more. I am *not* talking about Nuance, which Sprint also provides as their own app - I'm just talking about the generic search widget which takes either text or voice input. Is this new 'feature' just an improvement upon that, or is there some other nuance about the new service which I am missing?

  • My Motorola Cliq (which I really like) seems to be forever stuck at 1.5 (thanks T-Mobile). So I doubt I will ever get to see/use these features.
    • by blincoln (592401)

      My Motorola Cliq (which I really like) seems to be forever stuck at 1.5 (thanks T-Mobile).

      As far as I know, it's not T-Mobile's fault. It's Google's for refusing to support hardware that's more than a week old.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      There have been 2.1 Cliq roms for months at least if not longer. Should be 2.2 roms soon if not already.

  • I could have sworn this has been on the platform forever.

    I use the Cyanogenmod and I remember the Voice Dialer/Search have been on there since 1.6 and even 1.5.

    I have on my G1 2.1 right now as we speak. This has been around forever or am I missing something from this article.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Yeah you did miss something. It now does a bunch more. I just had it send an email using only voice commands. Including the body of the email.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sponga (739683)

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGbYVvU0Z5s [youtube.com]
        I see they did at it for texting, I wish the summary would just have a link to the Youtube video as they describe everything in there. This is awesome because it truly means hands free, now I almost want to replace the camera button as a shortcut button for search as it would be convenient to get to everything. Some of the newer phones have a 'voice' button already built into the hardware interface.

        But this is brilliant "Send text to bill burgs lets meet outside the

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          If you install CM6 then use titanium backup to remove the built in Voice Search you can upgrade to this now.

          • by sponga (739683)

            awesome tip, thanks; but I might hold off until they get apps2sd working on my poor weak G1
            Do I just uninstall through Titanium Backup correct? No need to wipe date/delete the app through Titanium?

            Link for anyone interested in CyanogenMod 6(2.2)
            http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=722801 [xda-developers.com]

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              If your going to wait you probably won't have to do anything. This will be part of the new Google Apps pack probably. But yeah just use it to uninstall nothing else. Then reboot, then go to market and install new version.

  • If you are running a non stock rom, you will need to use titanium backup or another tool to remove the stock voice search, then reboot and install this new one from the market.

  • by joh (27088) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @06:57PM (#33234014)

    Is Googles just trying to gather more data on their servers by beaming your voice to their servers which send commands back then? Or is this really running on your phone's hardware?

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      It needs the 3g, turns the voice into some hash then does a lookup.

      • by joh (27088) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @07:37PM (#33234340)

        It needs the 3g, turns the voice into some hash then does a lookup.

        So Google sees what you're saying and stores it on their servers hanging off your Google account? The same with every page or map you send from Chrome to your phone? Yeah, this is the same then as with everything Google does here.

        1) Throw people a nice sweet bait
        2) Get their personal data
        3) Profit!

        I will start to consider Android as soon as Google starts to transfer and store all personal data encrypted, with no way to read it or to link it up with other personal data of mine, except those data points I want to have linked up. Right, and give me a way to browse ALL data that gets stored off my phone at Google and a way to delete it if I want to. This would be the very least that should be required from them.

        • heya,

          Well, technically speaking, they're not required to do any of that, lol.

          But I see your point.

          The thing is, there's a tradeoff curve between "privacy" and "convenience". For many people, the convenience you get from using an Android phone, or any of Google's services is much better than any perceived privacy losses.

          Personally, I'm a little amused by privacy advocates. I can understand why you wouldn't want a repressive government having data on who you associate with. I'm originally from Singapore after

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by joh (27088)

            Most people have incredibly, pathetically mundane lives and an over-inflated sense of how important they are - myself included. Seriously, we're not that interesting. As a data point, in an overall trend, we're probably useful to companies.

            But as some anonymous person over the internet. Get real.

            Yeah, there's very little to fear actually for the random individual, yet. It's the same as with some natives selling their lands to some foreign visitor for a handful of glass beads. What will he do, they think, take the land and carry it away? Want to have a few stones to go with it? lol, ha ha. Nice, shiny glassbeads! Give!

            So, if you're using Android with all the Google apps there's some place deep in a server farm where more and better data about your digital life is laying nicely prepared for analyzing

            • by SnowZero (92219) on Friday August 13, 2010 @03:40AM (#33236472)

              There can't be any harm in requiring Google to adhere to some clear rules (like letting you browse all the data they have from you, giving you full control over deletions, offer complete export options with common data formats and so on).

              Most of the data Google has on you that is indexed by your account is already available on the Google dashboard:
                  https://www.google.com/dashboard/ [google.com]
              Some products are not yet supported (listed at the bottom). The Google Data Liberation Front is working toward making it complete:
                  http://www.dataliberation.org/ [dataliberation.org]
              They are also working on safe methods of deletion (note that making this too easy allows account hijackers to hold data for ransom).

              Note that there are also google ad preferences which allow you to see and edit what the Google ad system thinks about you:
                  http://www.google.com/ads/preferences/ [google.com]

  • I downloaded it. It still only has the old actions (Navigate To, Map Of, Call). None of the new ones work (Listen to, send text to, note to self, etc.), even if it recognises what you say correctly. :-(

  • by smash (1351)
    iOS has already done much of this for at least 1 year?
  • I've had this on my motor Droid since I got it... I love it, but why is it news?
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Because your wrong. I have the same phone and yesterday it did not take messages by voice, it did not have half these features.

      If your not running 2.2 you don't even have this available to you.

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