Google Updates: AI in Messages, Auto Safety Boost, and Wear OS Convenience

Tech News February 26, 2024

As the Mobile World Congress unfolds in Barcelona, Google introduces several Android updates. These enhancements include AI integration in Messages, Android Auto improvements, and the convenience of accessing boarding passes directly from your Wear OS smartwatch.

In the latest beta release, Google Messages on Android now offers direct access to the AI model Gemini. This integration allows the model to draft messages, assist in event planning, brainstorming, and other tasks, all within the Messages app.

Android Auto receives an AI boost, offering automatic summaries of lengthy texts or group chats while driving. The interface suggests quick replies, facilitates actions like sharing an ETA or initiating a call, contributing to a safer driving experience.

Google globally expands its AI-generated image description feature within the Lookout app. This accessibility feature aids individuals with visual impairments by providing audio descriptions of photos using AI. While previously limited to English in the US, UK, and Canada, the image caption feature is now accessible on Android devices worldwide, albeit still in English.

The Maps Lens feature, utilizing AI and augmented reality, receives an accessibility update. Google's TalkBack screen reader can now vocalize location information from Lens, including business hours, ratings, or directions, benefiting users with visual impairments.

Docs on Android devices now allows handwritten annotations, offering a more traditional editing approach with finger or stylus use in different pen colors or highlighting sections.

Switching between devices while using YouTube Music or Spotify becomes more seamless with the output switcher on Android's home screen, enabling users to easily redirect music playback to various devices.

A health upgrade is introduced in the Fitbit app through Android's Health Connect feature. The redesigned Fitbit app displays an overview of health data, integrating information from wearables and compatible apps.

Wear OS sees improvements, enabling smartwatch users to access Google Wallet passes, such as tickets and boarding passes. Additionally, Wear OS now supports Google Maps, providing public transit directions and navigation details directly on the smartwatch.