Google Translate has always been one of the unsung heroes of the free service space. On the one hand, it doesn't provide a perfect translation, so people are still hesitant to call it a true breakthrough. On the other hand, we use it all the time to translate web pages enough to get the gist and, when combined with speech-to-text and text-to-speech, you can use the Android app as the closest thing to a universal translator in your pocket the world has ever seen.
Yesterday, Google did what Google does best: announce a first version of something that is completely ridiculous, very few people care about, most folks mocked, and that will ultimately end up forgotten in the annals of internet history. No offense, Goog. Some later products are spectacular, but let's be real. Very rarely does Google get it right on the first try.
However, the Chromebook Pixel is still a huge deal and the savvy analyst should take notice, because things just changed in a big way.
Did you know that, since the last update to Google Search, developers have been able to utilize offline voice recognition? Previously, any non-system app that wasn't an IME (Input Method Editor) that hoped to recognize your voice without a web connection needed a rather kludgy typing overlay. Since the update though, apps can hear and interpret not just your words, but essentially any command that doesn't explicitly require web access.
While services like Spotify and Rdio may steal the spotlight most of the time, there are other streaming subscription services out there. Related: we need a better name than "streaming subscription services." Rhapsody, originally founded by Real Networks and since become an independent entity, has a pretty impressive library that users can now download for offline playback. An essential feature for a modern cloud music player. Update: To clarify, it's the ability to download songs on an individual or per-album basis that is new.
In yet more app news today, Google pushed out updates to Maps and its cousin Streetview.
First, Google Maps received the promised offline mode, wherein you can pan to a certain area and save it for use without an Internet connection. Pretty neat, though it remains impossible to use navigation offline, limiting the practical applications of this feature.
Additionally, Street View saw a minor update that should improve everyone's favorite compass mode - devices with a gyroscope should now be able to use it more smoothly.