Google announced significant upgrades to two of its most widely used products: Now and Maps. While Google Now is the voice-based assistant that comes integrated in the company’s mobile operating system Android, Maps has been consistently among the most heavily used apps and websites across platforms.

Google vice-president Sundar Pichai said that the company’s voice recognition error rate had dropped noticeably since 2013, from 24% to 8%, due to its investments in machine learning.

Google Now

The company’s director of product management Aparna Chennapragada said Google Now has now become much more contextually aware, so it will be able to provide directions to, for example, supermarkets or gas stations in the user’s vicinity. More significantly, the voice assistant will allow users to order Uber cabs, play music on Pandora etc using just voice commands.

Another new Google Now feature is ‘Now on Tap,’ which allows the Android digital assistant to track what is running on the screen and provide answers to users’ questions in natural language. To demonstrate, Chennapragada played a Skrillex song on an Android phone and asked Google Now “what’s his real name?” instead of asking “what’s the artist’s real name?”

This shows that Google Now was aware of what another app was running and provided the requisite detail, without having the user be accurate in forming the sentence, thus making conversation with the digital assistant more organic.

Google Maps

One of the key improvements in Google Maps is in its offline mode, which allows users to search for places even when the device is in offline mode. Even turn-by-turn navigation will work in Maps notwithstanding whether the handset has an active internet connection or not. Reviews for businesses listed on Google Maps are also included in the new offline mode.

This update of Google Maps will be released later this year, the company said.

Credit: Times of India