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Google’s ambitious plans to change every device on the planet

(BUSINESS NEWS) Google has been quietly, patiently waiting to launch their next big thing in technology and it has the potential to take over every device on the planet, if it catches on.

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Google on a whole nutha level

Google CEO, Sundar Pichai has plans to take Google to the next level. In an effort to stay ahead of the technology pack, running against Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and other competitors, Google is looking to the future to maintain their position.

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Pinchai sees the future of technology with endless possibilities, but for now they want to focus their development in one critical area: AI (Artificial Intelligence). While Forbes covered Pinchai’s career and plans to innovate Google’s vision even further, I feel it’s important to summarize their main points so we can get to the heart of the matter: the race of AI technology.

Why AI technology?

Miguel Helft at Forbes writes, “computing is already moving to multiple screens and in some instances-such as Amazon’s surprise hit Echo smart speaker- no screens. Interactions with devices and apps are quickly becoming two-way conversations, sometimes employing smart ‘bots’ promoted by Microsoft, Facebook, and others (remember we covered Yahoo’s launch of bots on Kik?).”

The desire to interact more with technology and less face-to-face with another human being is becoming glaringly obvious. The desire for advanced AI technology is already here; now, it’s merely a race to see who can launch the biggest, best, most engaging piece of AI technology quickest.

If others are already developing AI, what’s Google thinking?

Again, I turn to the Forbes article by Helft, “artificial intelligence has been in Google’s wheelhouse for years. [They] invested in fundamental building blocks such as voice recognition, language understading, and machine translation long before most of their rivals.”

And after years of preparation, Pichai says, the company is ready to bring all that work together in compelling products that will keep the company ahead of the competition.

Pinchai told Forbes, “we have this vision of a shift from mobile-first to an AI-first world over many years.”

At the annual Google I/O conference, Pinchai revealed the first prototype to fully use Google’s AI efforts: a smart speaker called Google Home. Sound familiar? This device seems to be a direct answer to Amazon’s Echo. Google Home isn’t the only product set to launch, however. They also plan to launch a messaging app called Allo. This is likely a direct response to WhatsApp, Kik, and other popular messaging platforms. Gmail is widely popular (with over 1 billion users), but what it lacks is a messenger to appeal to the younger crowed. Google may be hoping Allo is the answer for what this particular platform is lacking. Allo and Google Home will both be powered by  a “Google assistant” (a bit like Siri), but in their eyes, more engaging.

The Google assistant will offer users a way to interact with Google itself. You can play music, reply to messages, order flowers, ask Google to take notes for you and more. It will be there, in every aspect of your life, to help you get things done. Pinchai states, “You are trying to go about your day, and in an ambient way, things are there to help you.” Getting the assistant just right, however, is going to take a bit of time, and Amazon has already launched Echo; thus, Google’s energetic desire to press forward.

How does Google plan to push past Amazon and other competitors?

Four years ago, Google formed a break-away company appropriately called Google Brain to develop much of the intelligence that will push Google into the AI running. This team, according to Forbes, will conduct research and experiment with AI programming techniques like deep learning and neutral networks. Google had this technology is their arsenal before, but were unable to fully test it due to the massive amounts of computing power required. One of their recent improvements, Google Photos, was released about a year ago and used a bit of AI technology they’d been developing.

Google Photos has the ability to recognize and search images and then automatically organize them. The same method that worked for these photos, Google found, could be applied to voice recognition, translation, and other similar tasks. Also, this same technology used for Google Photos, is able to power StreetView’s ability to distinguish and “read” signs, as well as, Project Sunroof’s ability to identify rooftops using aerial photography to determine whether or not a roof can support solar panels. According to Forbes, “it’s also enabling a small experimental team to effectively detect diabetic retinopathy” by looking at retina scans.

Pinchai is convinced a few smart features like Photos along with the Chrome browser will help them gain a following; and with the launch of Allo (available late this summer), will help them gain an even greater following. Smart Reply will be integrated and automatically suggest three different prewritten answers to a message based on its content. According to Forbes, “Google developed Smart Reply in less than a year and first tested it in Inbox, a mobile e-mail app. It allows users on the go to select one of the answers and reply with a single tap.”  With Allo, Google took this one step further, “blending Smart Reply with image recognition, so it can suggest responses to photos via message.”  This will help users reply faster, spending less time typing an answer. In Allo, the Google assistant might also pop up in the middle of a conversation, depending on the subject matter, to help you book a restaurant, or plan a trip. Much like Siri does if you mention a time or date within your conversation.

The takeaway

Pinchai is conviced Google is further along than their competitors, citing AlphaGo. AlphaGo is a computer program that plays the board game Go. It’s the first computer Go program to beat a professional human player. The same algorithms used to create AlphaGo, could be developed further and applied to more practical problems according to Pinchai. He stated, “When you look at machine learning and AI, there are things you can do now, some in two to three years and some that are deeper and will take more time to do.”  Many technology enthusiasts, like Harvard professor Yoffie, believe Google is well-positioned to lead the transition to an AI-powered world if they continue to  make the same types of “good” decisions.

I think Google certainly has the research, assets, and  determination to get things done in terms of AI, but it seems like Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon, already have a head start on them as they’ve already launches their products. What do you think? Is Google poised to dominate the AI-world, or will someone else push ahead and get things done?

#googleAI

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Business News

This web platform for cannabis is blowing up online distribution

(BUSINESS NEWS) Dutchie, a website platform for cannabis companies, just octupled in value. Here’s what that means for the online growth of cannabis distribution.

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A small jar of cannabis on a desk with notebooks, sold online in a nicely made jar.

The cannabis industry has, for the most part, blossomed in the past few years, managing to hit only a few major snags along the way. One of those snags is the issue of payment processing, an issue compounded by predominantly cash-only transactions. Dutchie, a Bend, Oregon company, has helped mitigate that issue—and it just raised a ton of money.

Technically, Dutchie is a jack-of-all-trades service that creates and hosts websites for dispensaries, tracks product, processes orders, keeps stock of revenue, and so much more. While it was valued at around $200 million as recently as summer of 2020, a round of series C funding currently puts the company at around $1.7 billion—approximately 8 times its worth a mere 8 months ago.

There are a few reasons behind Dutchie’s newfound momentum. For starters, the pandemic made cannabis products a lot more accessible—and desirable—in states in which the sale of cannabis is legal. The ensuing surge of customers and demand certainly didn’t hurt the platform, especially given that Dutchie is largely responsible for keeping things on track during some of the more chaotic months for dispensaries.

Several states in which the sale of cannabis was illegal also voted to legalize recreational use, giving Dutchie even more stomping ground than they had prior to the lockdown.

Dutchie also recently took on 2 separate companies and their associated employees, effectively doubling their current staff. The companies are Greenbits—a resource planning group—and Leaflogix, which is a point-of-sale platform. With these two additions to their compendium, Dutchie can operate as even more of an all-in-one suite, which absolutely contributes to its value as a company.

Ross Lipson, who is Dutchie’s co-founder and current CEO, is fairly dismissive of investment opportunities for the public at the moment, saying he instead prefers to stay “focused with what’s on our plate” for the time being. However, he also appears open to the possibility of going public via an acquisition company.

“We look at how this decision brings value to the dispensary and the customer,” says Lipson. “If it brings value, we’d embark on that decision.”

For now, Dutchie remains the ipso facto king of cannabis distribution and sales—and they don’t show any plans to slow down any time soon.

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Business News

Ford adopts flexible working from home schedule for over 30k employees

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ford Motor Co. is allowing employees to continue working from home even after the pandemic winds down. Is this the beginning of a trend for auto companies?

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Woman in car working on engineering now allowed a flexible schedule for working from home.

The pandemic has greatly transformed our lives. For the most part, learning is being conducted online. At one point, interacting with others was pretty much non-existent. Working in the office shifted significantly to working remotely, and it seems like working from home might not go away anytime soon.

As things slowly get back to a new “normal”, will things change again? Well, one thing is sure. Working from home will be a permanent thing for some people as more companies opt to continue letting people work remotely.

And, the most recent company on the list to do this is Ford Motor Co. Even after the pandemic winds down, Ford will allow more than 30,000 employees already working from home to continue doing so.

Last week, the automaker giant announced its “flexible hybrid model” schedule to its staff. The new schedule is set to start in the summer, and employees can choose to work remotely and come into the office for tasks that require face-to-face collaborations, such as meetings and group projects.

How much time an employee spends in the office will depend on their responsibilities, and flexible remote hours will need to be approved by an employee’s manager.

“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent — you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” David Dubensky, chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, told the Washington Post. “Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful. … It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”

Ford’s decision to implement a remote-office work model has to do in part with an employee survey conducted in June 2020. Results from the survey showed that 95% of employees wanted a hybrid schedule. Some employees even reported feeling more productive when working from home.

Ford is the first auto company to allow employees to work from home indefinitely, but it might not be the only one. According to the Post, Toyota and General Motors are looking at flexible options of their own.

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Business News

Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.

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Woman working in office with remote team

Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

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