Yesterday, the opening of the annual Google I/O developers' conference captured a lot of attention, as it generally does.

Sometimes the conference can deliver a valuable lesson. In this case, though, forget the lessons and focus on tech that is actually useful and could help boost your productivity. In that sense, Google has delivered big time. Here are 5 examples.

1. New Additions to Google Assistant

The demo of Google Assistant's use of a new system called Google Duplex to place phone calls and make appointments has received bundles of attention for the natural-sounding tones of the voice and the system's ability to converse.

It's impressive, given the current cadence and stiffness of artificial voices. Instead, focus on the utility. In business, you need to telephone to make arrangements and appointments. Whenever a computer can undertake the task for you, it becomes found time.

2. Google Maps and Lens offer smart navigation and viewing

You're probably accustomed to using a GPS or electronic geographic information system like Google Maps to help you find directions. Google has added augmented reality to the equation.

By using the camera in your phone, Google can combine computer vision, StreetView, and Maps to help you orient and find your way. Augmented reality adds information to the screen that helps save time. Google Lens will be in camera apps and help answer questions. There will even be a visual copy and paste: Take a picture of some text and get it in a file, like supercharged optical character recognition.

3. Gmail's new auto completion

Hate writing emails? A new addition to Gmail, called Smart Compose, can help.

Machine learning sees how you and others use language and offers auto completion to complete phrases. If you don't want what it suggests, keep typing. But this could definitely save you time.

4. AI-powered news

If you're in business, you have to be interested in the news. The new Google News will bring in more artificial intelligence to learn what interests you and then to present it.

You can also tell the system that you want to see more or less of anything, so you're not locked in by only what computers assume they should show.

5. Visual smart displays

You may be one of the people who depends on a smart speaker or device like those from Google or Amazon. But not all questions can be easily answered verbally. What if you need directions on how to accomplish a physical task? Text is good, but images and video can be better.

In a couple of months, you'll see the first of these devices hit the market.

Still, keep one eyebrow raised

Technology is great, but can come at a cost. Take Google Duplex as an example. My Inc.com colleague John Brandon pointed out the certain chance this will power robo calls that will make you and your business crazy.

If a system like this becomes a way of hiding from making calls because you fear the process, it will be risky to use. You want to face the world strongly, which can take practice, not depend on an AI-powered bot to do it for you.

If you are concerned about privacy, which many people are, the added capabilities of Maps and Lens could be a concern. Google already collects a ton of information about your online activity. These additions in function will only expand that activity.

When machine learning starts to direct what you see, it may not realize when your interests change, as they will, meaning that you'll likely have to retrain the system more frequently than you assume.

As always, it's user beware while recognizing that you've got some great tools to help you save time.

Published on: May 9, 2018