May 9, 2019

Google I/O Keynote Recap: AI, Accessibility and More

Image of Google logo in Neon Lights

Google kicked off its annual developer conference, Google I/O, on Tuesday, with CEO Sundar Pichai stating that Google is “moving from a company that helps you find answers to a company that helps you get things done.” This appears to be very much the case: in addition to potentially life-changing accessibility tools for people with speech and hearing impairments(!), the team announced new features that will help you accomplish tasks faster and more seamlessly than ever. Some features were rolled out on day one of the conference, while others are set to follow later this year.

Here, we share the most exciting rollouts for those in the healthcare industry, plus other notable highlights.

Voice Recognition Takes Accessibility to a New Level of Inclusiveness
The most exciting news from Google was about voice recognition tools coming to Android’s latest operating system — for now called “Q.” Forty-six percent of Americans already use voice assistants, and the number is only expected to increase in the coming years.

  • Live Caption instantly takes audio and turns it into a text caption, which can be a game changer for the hearing impaired.
  • Live Relay helps people who have difficulty speaking to make and receive voice phone calls without the need to speak. This is, essentially, the mobile, 21st century equivalent of the TTY relay used (and still used by some) on landline telephones.
  • Live Transcribe, which Google announced earlier this year, provides real-time speech transcription for people who are deaf or hearing impaired.
  • Project Diva, is another assistive tool that will help people who are nonverbal or who have limited mobility, give commands to Google Assistant without using their voices.
  • Project Euphonia is a speech recognition tool designed to improve communication for people who have unusual speech patterns and pronunciation styles, or even those who cannot verbalize at all. One Google research scientist who is deaf helped create the technology, which uses Live Transcribe, then recorded 15,000 phrases for Project Euphonia to help train the tool. Google hopes to find more people to submit voice samples.

“Live Caption, Live Relay, Project Euphonia, and Project Diva are big steps forward for accessibility,” says senior innovation manager Andrew Grojean. “Google’s AI-powered accessibility features help those with non-standard speech patterns better use voice assistants like Google Assistant. This in turn gives patients new opportunities to use voice and gestures to communicate, learn and manage their health. (See: Voice Search – What It Changes and What It Makes Possible)

Life-Saving AI-Powered Research
Google announced an AI model that could help advance lung cancer research significantly. By using AI to help analyze images, the system could raise survival rates by 40% for one of the top global causes of death. Google’s Dr. Lily Peng stated during her presentation that Google’s AI model was able to detect cancer where 5 out of 6 radiologists could not.

Other Highlights

Privacy and data security

  • Web and app activity deletion capability whenever you choose
  • Real-time security updates that don’t require a system reboot
  • Reminders from each app to make sure you want to share your location with that app

These privacy features may limit data available to marketers in the short term (such as location data), but in the long term, it could be better for marketers since data may be given more intentionally.

Augmented reality

  • AR search can provide a 3-D model of the item you search for and allows you to drop it into your own surroundings.
  • AR walking maps for Pixel phones will drop a user on the street with a map and a photographic view of where they are in real-time, including street names and directional arrows to help guide the route.


  • Google Lens will translate or speak text when you point your phone at it.
  • Point your phone camera at a menu, and Google Lens will highlight a restaurant’s most popular dishes; point it at the bill, and Lens will calculate the tip for you and split the bill if you want.
  • Focus Mode allows you to turn off distracting apps when you need to get things done.

Smart home control

  • Nest Hub Max, which is a larger version of Nest Hub, can serve as the go-to control panel to manage your smart home and connect with other Nest users through video calls.
  • Hub Max also features facial recognition tools via its camera and can personalize its content for each user in the home. Oh, and it also can act as a screen for streaming shows.

Budget phones and longer battery life

  • Google will now offer less expensive Pixel models, Pixel 3a and 3aXL, starting at $399.
  • 3a will have 30 hours of battery life on a full charge.
  • Dark Theme – which garnered uproarious applause – darkens the phone screen to conserve battery life.

The Ultimate Takeaway: Let Google Be Your Guide 

“It is vital to provide patients and users who have visual, speech and motor impairments with the option to interact with devices and consume information through user-friendly voice interfaces,” says Abid Rahman, Intouch VP of innovation.

“What’s great is that Google not only has been at the forefront of voice-based assistants with Google Assistant and Google Home, now they’re also at the forefront of helping patients with speech impediments to give them a new way to communicate. Having Google Assistant understand the speech of a stroke patient and be able to turn on lights, lock the doors and other types of home automation will bring enormous benefit to the patient and improve their quality of life. Beyond home automation, just giving people a new voice to communicate is a big step toward making life easier for millions of people.”