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Google has another video conference tool, but are they too late?

(TECH NEWS) Google is making their Google Meet, available for anyone with a gmail account, leaving us to wonder if it’s a little too little, too late.

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Google Is now making its business video meeting tool available for free to everyone with a Gmail account. Wait! What? We already have that, don’t we? We do, kind of. Google has long offered free Google Hangouts, a messaging function that includes chat and video chat features for groups of up to 25 people. Google Duo is a video meeting app that has been available for cell phones and tablets, previously available for up to 8 people, but now for up to 12 people.

Sooooo, why do we care about free Google Meet? Isn’t this taking us back to, say, 2009? The difference is that with Google Meet, you can include up to 100 participants. This service used to be available only to paid G-Suite customers. Video conferencing has never been more popular or necessary, with Zoom leading the pack. Google wants you to blow off the others and give Google Meet a shot.

Why should we care? If you are already using a video meeting tool that works for you, what’s the incentive to switch? If you’re using Skype, you can only have up to 50 participants, while you can have up to 100 participants on Google Meet. On Zoom, you can also include up to 100 people on a video meeting. With a free Zoom account, you can meet for up to 40 minutes, and Google Meet has expanded their free Meet calls to 60 minutes.

Zoom has had serious issues with security and privacy. While Zoom is scrambling to enhance the safety and privacy of users, including ways to prevent illegal Zoombombing. Yet, it will be harder to trust Zoom again, now that the damage has been done. Google Meet already has a robust security system, including end-to-end encryption of all video calls. All calls go through Gmail, which already lives behind a bunch of protections, which has to be a good thing.

Google Meet also offers easy live captioning through their own voice recognition service and other accessibility considerations such as screen readers and magnifiers. People who are already familiar with Google chat/meeting tools will likely try Google Meet right away to see how it compares to Zoom, Skype, and other video conferencing tools. Google is betting on it.

However, if you already have a tool you love, you might be like, “Meh.” If you are the type who loves researching all of the tools to find your perfect match, then this is likely exciting news for you. Options are always good, though. The strangest thing is that Google has had this capability all along. When schools started shuttering during the pandemic, Zoom immediately stepped up and offered educators its professional tools for free–a clutch move that garnered them loads of positive press and help propel them past competitors into the top spot.

Google Meet will have to prove to be at least as clear, fast, easy to use as Zoom. With Google’s collection of launched and abandoned video tools, though, we have to wonder if it will be. At least Meet is already starting out more secure, which is a superb start. With the launch of Zoom 5.0, though, will it be too little, too late for Google Meet to capture a good chunk of the video tool?

Joleen Jernigan is an ever-curious writer, grammar nerd, and social media strategist with a background in training, education, and educational publishing. A native Texan, Joleen has traveled extensively, worked in six countries, and holds an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. She lives in Austin and constantly seeks out the best the city has to offer.

Tech News

Google gets sued for misleading name ‘Incognito mode’

(TECH NEWS) Incognito mode was a way to stay safe while searching right? Wrong! Google is getting sued because of its misleading naming.

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Have you ever played hide and seek? Of course you have, you were a child once. But imagine opposite hide and seek, where you get blind folded, and placed somewhere; then everyone just stands there looking at you. That’s pretty creepy, but that’s basically what Google incognito mode actually does.

I think many people expect that something called incognito mode, would basically stop your searches, visits, and form information from being seen by anyone else. In actuality it puts a blindfold on the device you’re using, and that’s it. Everyone else can get all the information you thought was being held secret.

This may not come as a shock to many people, but enough have cried out to bring a class action lawsuit to Google for misleading its users. Google responds “Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device. As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity during your session.”, and they are not wrong. It does state it clearly every time you open the browser.

The lawsuit is on the grounds that the tech giant intentionally misled users with the name incognito mode, and that makes sense to me. I mean when spies, or ninjas, or what-have-you go to fade into the shadows, they don’t just put some cloth on their face, and wander around bumping into things, that kind of defeats the purpose.

If anything, all it’s really doing is saving your device some hardware space, so storage saving mode would ring a more apt name in this case. I’m glad someone is doing something about it, but they should reach further, Safari has very similar language. They just leave off the actual warnings, and stick with the part about your particular device.

The best way to keep your data yours, so no one else can take it is through a VPN. They scramble your IP address which gives location data, and access to your computer, and we have you covered with this story about 5 that are inexpensive.

I do hope law firm Boies Schiller & Flexner can win the minimum $5b they want from google, but also pay out more than the $5,000 to the 3 current plaintiffs.

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Tech News

Google begins evolving Hangouts into Google Chat

(TECH NEWS) Google is transitioning from Hangouts, and Meet to Chat to offer what they think consumers want. No more competing with themselves.

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Google chat

What is your favorite instantaneous way to communicate with your team these days? Phone call, text, video call, group text message, email, or instant message?

It might depend on the team members and their preferences, but organizations and business owners run the gamut on IM (Instant Messaging) software: Slack, Skype for Business, MS Teams, and Google Chat to name a few. There have also been several that worked well for smaller companies and startups like HipChat by Atlassian. These are often used in addition to still meetings, conference calls, and emails but depending on the culture of the organization, they may love IM, and require it to have a wider range of capabilities that just copy (i.e. photo and file attachments, groupings, privacy settings, focused team, or group channels)

To be fair, there are varying degrees of interest by employees in instant messaging. Some love the idea that you can quickly reach out to a coworker and ask a question, and some find it bothersome and would prefer an email so they can file and sort topics easily (or if it’s really that quick, a phone call or stopping by to ask – if they are in the same space – not COVID-19 alternative working).

This begs the question, does IM allow for more remote working capabilities, and does that mean Google is on to something that they may have just hit the right time and need? The truth of email is that we are becoming less and less interested in reading long forms of copy, and want the information quickly.

Google consolidated their people working on communications tool to one team and is moving Hangouts to Google Chat as well as quickly integrating Google Meet for everyone (you can start a video meeting from within your Gmail, so think Zoom but not having to leave your email – assuming you’re on the G-suite).

If timing is everything, this could be a really smart move for them. Do you even remember Google Hangouts? This was a product launched originally as a feature of Google+, and then became a stand-alone product in 2013. It incorporated video and voice call capabilities for individuals or groups. The thing is, in 2013, I think many people were still using IM through their work email (which was dominated by Microsoft Outlook and PCs). For whatever reason, people just weren’t really using it that way. Most likely people could use it with their internal teams, but would have to use Chat for external users.

The history of Instant Messaging is kind of fun to review – starting with AOL in 1997 when they launched AIM. Now pretty much every platform has a version of the instant message, and people are extremely accustomed to short exchanges and ways to reach out quickly. People frequently use text, Twitter, iMessage, GroupMe, and Facebook Messenger among other ways to quickly reach out, break through the clutter, and hopefully hear a response back pretty quickly.

It appears that Google hopes to offer the capabilities that their users need – when they realized it seemed that business users were using Chat within their organizations, but having to use Hangouts to speak to those outside of that company. Right now, this is only for business users, but they are likely to see how to roll it out to all customers now that they’ve added the Meet capabilities.

According to Android Police, “Furthermore, it’ll soon be possible for G Suite users to message other G Suite users from outside their organization starting May 26. Anyone not in your company will have an ‘External’ label next to their name in the Google Chat UI so there’s no confusion. You’ll also be able to add any contacts to group chats so long as you designate them as ‘External.’ This will only apply to new rooms, though — any you’ve already created will have to remain internal-only rooms.”

It looks like Google is working on getting rid of Hangouts for good, and broadening Google Chat, but there could be some other products in the meantime. Will this change how you use your G-suite?

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Tech News

A look into why AI couldn’t save the world from COVID-19

(TECH NEWS) AI is only as powerful and intelligent as the teams building it, but we just don’t have the data yet. So perhaps, we just aren’t there quite yet.

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COVID-19 AI

Even in the best of times, the human race can hardly be defined by our patience in the face of uncertainty. COVID-19 has rocked our feelings of safety and security. Hospitals have struggled to keep up with demand for care, and researchers are working tirelessly to create a vaccine. Early on in the fight against this virus, some looked to artificial intelligence technology to lead the pack in finding a solution to the global health crisis, but science takes time and AI is no different.

Over two months ago, when COVID-19 was still most prevalent in China, researchers were already attempting to use AI to fight the virus’ spread. As Wired reports, researchers in Wuhan, China attempted to screen for COVID-19 by programming an AI to analyze chest CTs of patients with pneumonia.

The AI would then decipher if the patient’s pneumonia stemmed from COVID-19 or something less insidious. This plan failed for the same reason many pursuits do – a lack of time and data to pull it off.

The United Nations and the World Health Organization examined the lung CT tool, but it was deemed unfit for widespread use. The lung CT tool, and all other AI driven projects, are limited by the humans designing and operating them.

We have struggled to collect and synthesize data in relation to COVID-19, and as a result tools, like the lung CT scans, cannot hope to succeed. AI is only as powerful and intelligent as the teams building it, so perhaps, we just aren’t there quite yet. Our tenacity and optimism continue to drive AI forward, but progress can only be sped up so much.

Like all science, AI has its limitations, and we cannot expect it to be a miracle cure for all our problems. It requires data, experimentation, and testing just like any other scientific pursuit. There are many problems to unlock before AI can be a leader in the driving force for positive change, but its shortcomings do not outweigh its potential. AI couldn’t save us from COVID-19, but as researchers continue to learn from this global event, AI may still save us in the future.

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