As part of its AI-first strategy, Google is developing a mobile variant of its machine learning framework. TensorFlow Lite will soon be part of the framework’s open source code
Google is developing neural network APIs for the mobile version that will let developers tap into DSPs and other mobile accelerator cores and chips. Last month, Qualcomm, Nvidia and others showed support for Facebook’s new Caffe 2 framework for mobile devices.
Separately, Google released a beta preview of Android O, the next version of the mobile OS, pitching it as a major upgrade. Perhaps more significantly it announced a streamlined variant for entry-level smartphones targeting emerging markets that are expected to generate most of the growth in the slowing smartphone market.
Android Go will work on handsets with as little as 512 Mbytes storage. It includes applications and features optimized for low-cost handsets that may have intermittent data links and users who have limited data budgets. Google also released guidelines for developing apps for the devices that are not expected to start shipping until next year.
Some two billion Android smartphones and tablets are now active. They downloaded 82 billion apps last year.
Google’s Android Wear is now supported by 24 watch brands, although Apple still ships the brunt of smart watches. Interestingly, Google claims Chromebooks make up 60 percent of K-12 laptops, a market Apple used to dominate, and one that is likely moving to tablets and handsets.
On another front, CEO Pichai said third-party products will ship before the end of the year, certified to work with Google’s Assistant and Home products. Thanks to neural nets, the word error rate on Google’s voice recognition services is now down to 4.9 percent from 6.1 percent in December, he said.
Interestingly, the Google Assistant is now available on the iPhone, Pichai announced to cheers from an audience at the Shoreline Amphitheater, a concert venue near Google headquarters where the event was held. The venue is a short drive from Apple’s “spaceship” headquarters still under construction.
Google announced several new services coming soon for its Home product. They include proactive assistance based, for example, on events on a personal calendar and changing traffic or weather conditions. A hands-free calling service will be available in the U.S, and Canada, and the Home device will be able in the future to send Web data to supported Chromecast TVs and Android smartphones.
A new service called Google Lens showed the most impressive uses of machine learning.
Lens recognizes objects on a smartphone camera and responds with information about it, such as a related Web page. In one demo, a user took a picture of a menu in Japanese that Lens translated. In another it removed an obstructing fence from a picture of a Little Leaguer at bat.
“We are clearly at an inflection point with vision,” said Pichai.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times