Today's Hangouts update was a bit of a surprise. Besides landing on Monday, the update was a fairly large one. Users of the latest version of Hangouts are already enjoying merged SMS/Hangouts threads, improved status markers, a new home screen widget, new sound effects, the ability to share contact cards, and other touches. But - as with any Google update - it's worth looking a little deeper in the app to see what may be hiding in the code.
For over a few hours on Monday, several Google services came crashing to a halt. Users all over the world were unable to send messages via Hangouts, engage in video chats, or check Google Voice. Some people trying to create spreadsheets with Sheets were met with 502 errors, and people taking advantage of the multi-player aspect of Google Play Games were also affected. All of this apparently resulted from an oops during a routine hardware maintenance event where the company miscalculated available capacity.
I love Update Wednesdays, and today we've already seen pretty decent updates to several Google apps. As you've already seen, Google Play Games was updated to v1.5, but the one I'm excited about the most is, without a doubt, Google TTS v3.0, which made a jump today from v2.4.
So, what's so cool about TTS 3.0?
First and foremost, Text-to-Speech 3.0 adds support for high quality voices.
Samsung may be preparing to announce the Galaxy S5 at Mobile World Congress later this month, and one of the features it's sure to detail is an updated version of its S Voice assistant. We saw a few screens of this app leak recently, but now SamMobile has gotten some hands-on time with the app and has the screens to prove it.
Today, Google finally opened the Chromecast up to developers in a meaningful way, releasing the Google Cast SDK and integrating the relevant Android API into Google Play Services, the ever-growing backbone of Google's Android-based offerings. The update has already begun its rollout. Of course, that means we're going to look inside and see what's new, and we've also got a download for those who just can't wait for Play Services 4.2 to hit their device.
Motorola Assist has just made the jump to version 1.3, and with the update comes the expected helping of new features. Today's serving includes the ability to respond to text messages with just your voice and the option to select which music app to launch automatically when entering the car. Just be sure to select the best music app when prompted, as Assist won't necessarily dish out the most practical set of options.
Earlier today, we published a first look at what we believed to be a Yahoo!-made competitor to voice assistants like Google Now and Siri. The video, sent to us by an anonymous tipster along with screenshots showed what looked to be a very impressive app with an implementation similar to Facebook's Chat Heads, whereby a Y! icon would constantly float on the home screen waiting to be activated.
This evening, TechCrunch learned through a source "familiar with Yahoo's internal projects" that the app wasn't real, implying the video was nothing more than a really nice concept demo.
Update 2: According to TechCrunch, and Co-Founder/CEO of natural language processing startup Robin Labs, the app is a real, functional product built on the startup's "white-label" voice assistant platform. While it was not commissioned by Yahoo!, it was created during ongoing discussions with the company. Read the full story here.
Update: According to TechCrunch, who has a source "familiar with Yahoo's internal projects," the video doesn't depict a real Yahoo!
Just by tapping the microphone icon in the search bar, English speakers can ask Google any number of questions and have their phone respond in their native language. Thus far, others haven't been so lucky. But now Google is expanding that functionality to more languages. Starting today, French, German, and Japanese speakers shall also be able to ask their Android devices questions and hear answers spoken in the same tongue.
The changes should take place server-side, so you don't have to wait for a update (as long as you already have the latest version, that is).
About a month ago, we found some enticing goodies in Hangouts' 1.2 update. Specifically, we found evidence of activity statuses - rich status messages that would allow you to set a status with accompanying iconography for things like biking, driving, laptop, tablet, and phone. Some of these, (like biking and driving) we predicted, may be set automatically by Hangouts. The teardown also revealed the possibility of moods, using the bouncy yellow fellow found on Google+.