Everything You Missed From Google I/O 2024: Gemini, Project Astra, and More – PCMag

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At I/O this week, Google provided the developer community a peek at what it has in store for the next year, and not surprisingly, it’s all about artificial intelligence. The company’s lengthy opening keynote on Tuesday focused almost entirely on AI and the upgrades the company has made to its Gemini model. CEO Sundar Pichai even noted that presenters said the word “AI” 121 times. Some features are rolling out now while others will appear later this year after more testing. But here are some of the more interesting things the search giant showed off in Mountain View.


Gemini 1.5 Pro and Flash

Google is bringing its Gemini 1.5 Pro model to Gemini Advanced, Google’s version of ChatGPT Plus, with an expanded context window of 1 million tokens. This will help it “make sense of multiple large documents, up to 1,500 pages total.” And you can upload those files directly from Google Drive now. For those who need the fastest response possible, Gemini 1.5 Flash is a smaller model “optimized for narrower or high-frequency tasks.” Both versions are available in preview today in 200+ countries before a formal launch in June. A version of 1.5 Pro with a 2 million context window is also available for Google Cloud customers, but you’ll need to join a waitlist.


AI Overviews

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Google has spent the last year testing out its Search Generative Experience (SGE), which puts AI-generated responses atop search results and is intended to answer your question quickly at a glance; no more clicking through blue links. At I/O, Google rebranded SGE as “AI Overviews” and says it’s “rolling out to everyone in the US, with more countries coming soon.” The feature has put some search-driven publishers on edge, since the data surfaced by AI Overviews is pulled from their sites. But Google insists that “we see that the links included in AI Overviews get more clicks than if the page had appeared as a traditional web listing for that query.” Coming soon, Google says you’ll be able to adjust AI Overviews to get a simple or more complex response.


Ask Photos

Even if your Google Photos account is carefully curated into Albums, it can still be a chore to surface an image when you need it. With Ask Photos, you can have a conversation with your photo albums via Gemini and the AI will serve up pics. Google promises you can go a little deeper than “show me photos of the Eiffel Tower” to ask things like “Show me the best photo from each national park I’ve visited” or “What themes have we had for my kid’s birthday parties?” Ask Photos is an experimental feature that will roll out “soon.”

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Project Astra

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Project Astra is a next-generation AI assistant that can view the world around you, and provide advice and tips throughout the day. In a demo (below), a Google employee accessed the AI assistant on a smartphone, pointing its camera at various objects, and asking Gemini to identify or provide details about them. It identified parts on a speaker, what type of code was displayed on a monitor, and what neighborhood the Google office was located in from looking out the window. It also recalled where the employee had left her glasses. In our own demo, we got more mixed results, possibly due to our artistic talents (video above). The company plans on rolling out parts of Project Astra later this year through the Gemini app


Veo Video Generator

Google took the wraps off a new AI video generator, image creator, and music-making toolbox during its keynote. Much like OpenAI’s Sora, the Veo video generator takes text-based prompts and turns them into 1080p resolution videos longer than 60 seconds. It’s available today to “select creators in private preview” and through a waitlist. Google plans to release it more widely in the future, as well as to YouTube Shorts as a new video-creation tool.


Gemini for Google Workspace Upgrade

Google added its Gemini smarts to Workspace earlier this year, and its enterprise-focused software will now get a Gemini 1.5 Pro upgrade. When people launch Gemini in the side panel of Gmail, Docs, Drive, Slides, and Sheets, Google says “Gemini can answer a wider variety of questions and provide more insightful responses.” That includes asking Gemini to summarize lengthy email threads or Docs. The upgrade is available now for those using it via Labs or Workspace Alpha; everyone else gets it next month.


Hands On With Project Starline 3D Video Conferencing

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At I/O, Google demoed its Project Starline 3D video-conferencing solution, and it’s pretty impressive. Project Starline taps a powerful screen called a light field display and six sizable web cameras that capture the user. The web cameras are designed to record a 3D video of your face, body, and any objects you show during the call from various angles. You feel like you’re in the room with someone during a video call versus in a little chat box. This isn’t going to be something you’ll use at home; your office will likely have to shell out to install Project Starline, but Google says the technology can increase attentiveness and memory recall. Check out our hands on for more.


Scam Call Alerts

Google is testing an AI-powered alert system that warns Android users about scam phone calls in real time. It taps Gemini Nano, an AI model that can run locally on a smartphone without connecting to the internet. If the AI picks up on keywords associated with a scam (like asking for a password), it can prompt you to hang up. You can dismiss the pop-up if the call is legit. Details are scant at this point, raising alarm bells among security pros, but Google says Nano operates locally, without connecting to the internet. “This protection all happens on-device, so your conversation stays private to you.” It promised more information “about this opt-in feature later this year.”

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Android Theft Protection

Google is taking a page from Apple with Android Theft Protection, which will lock down a phone if it’s been stolen to prevent thieves from accessing banking apps and other sensitive data on your phone. If your phone is snatched, it’ll require biometric authentication and a time delay before any settings can be changed, which is intended to give you enough time to get to another device and change your logins or wipe the device. It will roll out via Google Play services later this year to devices running Android 10+, with some features available in Android 15.


Excuse Me, Your Phone Is Hacked

In a bid to prevent scam apps from proliferating on Google Play, a new feature gives developers a heads up if their apps are running on devices infected with malware. Among other things, it allows Android to notify a developer if another app might be recording the screen, overlaying content, or taking control of the phone.


Google Cast Is Coming to Cars, Starting With Rivian

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Need to kill some time while charging an EV or waiting in the pickup line? Google Cast is coming to cars, starting with Rivian via a “simple over-the-air update…soon.” The capability only works when parked so as not to distract the driver. It’s also coming to other car brands with Android Automotive OS, but Google hasn’t said which ones.

Everything Announced at Google I/O
PCMag Logo Everything Announced at Google I/O
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