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[Update: Now in four more states] Google Duplex expands to 44 US states, coming to non-Pixel devices soon

At Google I/O last year, we got our first glimpse of Duplex, an AI that can place phone calls for you to secure dining reservations. Google rolled Duplex out in an extremely limited test late last year. Now, Duplex is coming to Pixel phones in 43 states, and non-Pixel phones will have access soon.

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[Update: Sound events, copy & save] Google releases Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier apps to improve Android for the hearing-impaired

Google's focus on making Android more accessible has been evident — it opened last year's I/O keynote with morse code input on Gboard. In addition to that, Android Pie brought with it an array of new accessibility features, letting motor-impaired users easily jump to nine common interactions on their phones. Today, the Android Accessibility team announced Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier, two new apps that look to materially improve quality of life for deaf and hard-of-hearing users. The apps are currently being tested on the Play Store and will be pushed to all Pixel 3 users in the next update.

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Assistant will soon be able to turn off lights and appliances automatically when you leave home

If you ask my neighbors, they'll probably tell you they've heard me shout "OK Google; I'm leaving" at least once. This isn't because I like everybody to know I'm headed out, but rather to turn every smart device off using Assistant. You could argue that since I'm carrying my phone with me, I could set up a routine that does it for me, but I would need to do that for every single app that can control my IoT objects, and I'm not comfortable sharing my location with some of these companies. Lastly, not all of my smart plugs work with IFTTT, so that's not an option either.

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You can now order the Pixel 3a and 3a XL on Amazon

Google's new Pixel 3a and 3a XL phones have the potential to be the company's most widely adopted yet, with a competitive price and greater carrier availability. Another point in the 3a's favor: everyone's favorite online mega-retailer is now selling both models directly.

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Latest Gboard update includes theme-matching nav bar colors and new emojis [APK Download]

With all the limited-time testing and server-side changes Google makes to its keyboard app, it's tough to figure out what's new, what's not, and what will only be sticking around for a short while before disappearing again. The latest Gboard changelog includes a number of things that may or may not be new, so we sorted through to see what's what.

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Plastic fantastic: The Pixel 3a is a refreshing break from the delicate glass sandwich

Sometime in the last few years, "plastic" became a dirty word in smartphones. The reasons for this — like evoking the kind of cheap and unpleasant designs that defined early Android phones — are probably less important the outcomes. A whole class of materials were re-branded as low-rent, and today even many relatively affordable phones have made the switch to fully aluminum or metal-and-glass sandwiches for the superficially premium look they impart.

But Google's newest smartphone bucks the trend, and in just the right way: the Pixel 3a stands apart with its genuinely nice, unapologetically plastic design.

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Google not-so-subtly reminds employees it would prefer it if they'd stop poking around sensitive projects, threatens termination for violators

Google has been shaken by a couple of scandals lately. Through pressure from its employees, it had to let go of a custom censored search engine for China, and when the world got to know how poorly the company handled sexual harassment, workers orchestrated a global walkout to make their executives aware how unhappy they were with the situation. As a consequence, Google appears to be on the way to become a less open company, as an internal email made the rounds last Thursday where employees are threatened to be fired when they access classified information.

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Google Images experiments with dark, right-sided preview panel

Google wouldn't be Google if it didn't have a bazillion A/B tests running at the same time. This is the case for its Android apps, but of course, also for its web services. Google Images, in particular, appears to receive slightly tweaked layouts for results every once in a while. Now, a bigger change is on the horizon, as we've seen first reports of a new results page with a dark background for previews and responsive design.

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Google introduces 'Translatotron', a direct speech-to-speech translation technology


Interpreting and translating live speech is much trickier than simply processing written text. Indeed, unlike human brains, machines would typically need to go through three separate phases to convert oral communication from one language to another. Initially, speech would need to be interpreted by the machine and transcribed into text, which would then be translated into the target dialect, before being fed into a text-to-speech engine to be spoken out loud. Although this cascaded process is transparent for the user and relatively fast, Google is working on a more natural speech-to-speech method it called Translatotron, which doesn't need intermediate processing for translation.

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