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Google Sheets ups their game with predictive data entry

(TECHNOLOGY) Google sheets continues to improve its product to match Microsoft, this time with predictive data entry, and soon, predictive clean up.

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Google Sheets

Google’s Office-like products have come a long way since their inception, but Microsoft Excel has almost always appeared to have a leg-up on Google Sheets — something that Google hopes to rectify with their latest rendition of the spreadsheet creator.

Google Sheets SmartFill is the newest addition to Sheets, and while it bears resemblance to features already in place in Microsoft Excel, that isn’t a bad thing for anyone who relies on free G-Suite products to input their data.

SmartFill, a feature that attempts to predict your entries based on patterns, is similar to the autofill Google already uses in Gmail and online forms; it is scheduled to roll out “in the near future.”

Sheets SmartFill doesn’t just detect similar entries and suggest those same entries over and over again like we’ve seen in the past, though. Through spontaneous creation of formulas that fit your specific needs, Sheets SmartFill can determine and put into use the slight changes you need to make every cell unique while utilizing the same format.

These automatic fill options come in the form of a prompt that you can confirm or reject at the click of a button, a system that looks an awful lot like Google Docs’ editing suggestions. Given how seamlessly the user interface works for those, it seems appropriate to maintain optimism toward Sheets SmartFill.

It’s worth noting that, by creating a formula, SmartFill does the legwork for more complex formulas you may have to use later. While this may not be the ultimate intent behind the process, it’s a handy side effect.

Google also announced another pending addition to Sheets called Smart CleanUp. This feature is less geared toward spreadsheet creation and more focused on maintenance or last-minute revisions. CleanUp will allow users to search for and remove formatting errors, extra data, and duplicate entries where appropriate.

And, like SmartFill, CleanUp will manifest as editing suggestions that you can accept or decline as you please.

Love it or hate it, Google Sheets is clearly positioned to make the user experience more convenient and less monotonous–something that, previously, Excel had all but trademarked.

As Google continues to update their G-Suite apps, all of which remain free for individual use, one can expect that user convenience will stay at the forefront of those innovations.

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

Real Estate Technology

This is the BEST professional profile picture creator on the planet

(TECH NEWS) This new profile picture tool helps amp up your social media presence with beautiful and free tools to enhance any photo.

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Profile Picture Maker is a service that allows you to quickly create beautiful profile pictures.

With every pun intended, your profile picture is the face of your online presence. While there are different “rules” for different platforms (e.g. it’s socially acceptable to have a picture of you and your significant other as your Facebook profile pic, whereas that wouldn’t fly on LinkedIn).

Many avid social media users are working in an effort to brand themselves (blue check, please!) So, it’s important to put your best foot – or in this case, face – forward.

Profile Pic Maker is here to help you brand. And, before you judge the name as something that sounds akin to the days of MySpace, it’s simplicity (in name and execution) is actually quite cool.

It lets you upload any photo of you (or your pet) and creates profile pics that are useful across Facebook, Google, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and so on. You can then start editing the photo to your liking.

The tool boasts a photo background remover, creative photo filters, and the likelihood of getting more likes on your photo. With the photo background remover, you can remove the background from your photo completely automatically and precisely.

With creative photo filters, apply creative studio-grade filters to create aesthetically pleasing profile pics. And with all of this, your photos will gain more interest.

Here’s how it works: You upload a photo, the background is automatically removed, then you review dozens of professionally generated profile pics (including backgrounds with solid colors and gradients). Best of all, it’s free.

I tried it – it took all of 15 seconds and I was enamored with the outcome. The options were astoundingly cool and I’ll likely be spending the rest of my day deciding what picture to use. It does have a few kinks (my face was distorted on a few options) but there’s plenty of perfect ones to pick from.

Profile Pic Maker test images by author Taylor Leddin

According to PFP’s website, “Profiles with a profile photo receive 14 times more views than those without a profile photo. Moreover, with a professional profile photo you are 36 times more likely to receive a message.”

I’ve yet to upload these to my personal pages, but I can attest to the above statement and the overall concept being useful. For my dog’s Instagram page (yes, I’m one of those people), I cropped just his face from a photo and put it against a colorful background to make it look more “professional” and the page has gotten a lot more interaction since then.

What do you think? Do fun and colorful backgrounds draw your eye more than a regular old photo?

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Real Estate Technology

Should digital assistants have empathy? Big investors say yes

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Bonding with your digital assistant might be more likely than you expect with ElliQ. The rising numbers of AI assistants have created unique interactions.

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ElliQ assistant

It sounds crazy to think that you could form an actual bond with something like Siri or Alexa, but actually, humans are pretty dang good at forming emotional connections to machines. For instance, a Canadian company threw an entire retirement party for five mail delivery bots. People will use Roombas as a substitute for companionship, not unlike a cat or dog. Humans just seem to enjoy connection – even if it’s with a lifeless robot.

Intuition Robotics is taking this desire for emotional connection a step further by working to create digital assistants that can more easily bond with their human companions. At the moment, their biggest product is ElliQ, a robotic digital assistant designed to bond with eldery users. In fact, according to Intuition Robotics, their average demographic falls between ages 78 – 97.

And ElliQ seems to be doing its job. The company reports that customers interact with ElliQ regularly throughout the day, even holding conversations with the machine, and are more likely to listen to ElliQ’s suggestions, which often include proactive behavior like getting outdoors or eating more vegetables.

By working to create a more empathetic and emotional digital AI, Intuition Robotics has started to discover a whole world of new possibilities. And they’re just getting started, having recently raised another $36 million to continue research.

One of their plans? Combining these empathetic digital assistants with the automotive industry.

Imagine an assistant that could suggest you pull over when it senses you’re getting drowsy, or provide something to talk to during longer drives. Plus, unlike ElliQ, which stays put while you move around, you and the assistant will be together in a car, making it easier for the AI to learn your preferences and habits.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Intuition Robotics, which has recently majorly expanded its workforce. A digital assistant that can provide a better emotional connection to humans has a world of possible applications, from nursing homes to elementary schools.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons to be worried about a more empathetic AI – the marketing capabilities alone are something I’m side-eyeing. That said, humans have been befriending vacuum cleaners and we’ve turned out alright, so for now, let’s focus on the positive possibilities that could come with tech from companies like Intuition Robotics.

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Real Estate Technology

Private browsing will be pushed into the mainstream this fall – ready?

(TECHNOLOGY) Private browsing is making strides, and your entire company should be pushing for all teams to use the new features.

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private browsing

Browser privacy is at the forefront of many consumers’ concerns in a digitally advanced world, so it’s no surprise that companies like Apple and Firefox are expanding their browsing features to encompass more aggressive privacy options. According to Digiday, that push will happen early this fall.

A private browsing company called Neeva will also feature in this fall endeavor, encouraging a shift to their product (an ad-free, subscription-based browser) alongside Apple and Firefox. Neeva would theoretically charge a “minimum” of four dollars per month, allowing users to experience a much more private web browsing experience for far less than the abstract cost of more traditional options.

Neeva’s fundraising fervor can be, in part, attributed to the success of Brave, a similarly privacy-focused browser that makes use of Tor to protect unwitting users from unfriendly data inquiries.

Apple’s foray into more extreme privacy options comes in the form of “Apple Private Relay,” which is a feature that can prevent websites from viewing the identity of a visitor.

Firefox’s approach is a bit more platform-centered, with its initiatives including more active showcasing of its built-in VPN and safety features.

Digiday acknowledges that privacy-forward browsing has been available for years, but it tends to reside “mostly on the fringes of society,” with browsers like Tor succumbing to slow load times and stereotypes regarding things like criminal activity and a disproportionately high conspiracy theorist population.

But data privacy is extremely important, now more than ever – and dispelling those stereotypes in favor of education is crucial if the public is going to shift away from browsers and browsing habits that, respectively, look pretty and feel convenient while continuing to endanger and victimize consumers.

For a company like Apple to be moving toward an increase in privacy feels like a paradigm shift – if for no other reason than when Apple makes moves, everyone else tends to sit up and pay attention. Firefox’s push may be a little less surprising given the features built into the browser, but the timing isn’t a coincidence.

Private browsing, at least to those who know it best, has mainstream value, and it’s on its way.

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