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Google wants to make Android users super-texters with new AI features

Camilo Fonseca   

Google wants to make Android users super-texters with new AI features
  • Google unveiled several new AI-powered features for Android users.
  • Google Messages will now have access to the company's Gemini chatbot and custom "photomojis."

Starting this week, Android users are getting access to some new AI-powered perks.

Google unveiled several new features for its operating system as Mobile World Congress kicks off this week in Barcelona.

The standout announcement is that Gemini, Google's own AI chatbot, will be available in the Google Messages app. The Gemini chatbot was formerly known as Bard, before Google rebranded its AI portfolio earlier this year.

For now, the Gemini beta is only available in English (except in Canada, where it is available in French) and in "select markets." But those in the beta testing program will be able to have conversations with the chatbot, and can use it to help draft messages, plan events, or brainstorm ideas, Google says.

Google Messages also debuted the "photomoji," allowing users to turn their own photos into custom emojis that they can use to react to messages or share as stickers.

There are also changes coming to Android Auto. Now, drivers will be able to hear summaries of long text conversations, without having to play entire messages out loud in the car — something especially helpful for large, active group chats.

Android Auto will also suggest replies and actions at the touch of a pop-up, helping drivers stay focused on the road. Those actions include making phone calls, navigating to an address received in Messages, or sharing your ETA with someone asking: "When are you getting here?"

Other AI-powered tools include auto-generated descriptions of photos (including those sent in Google Messages), and "TalkBack" for the Lens feature of Google Maps, which uses your phone's camera. Now, the app is able to read the details of locations around you — such as directions, ratings, and closing time — out loud.

If you're an iPhone user feeling left out, keep in mind that Tim Cook has said to expect some new AI announcements from Apple later this year.

"We've got some things that we're incredibly excited about that we'll be talking about later this year," he said on the company's latest earnings call.

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