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Google Plans to Make Assistant More Powerful by Investing in Startups

Google invests in startups to make its Assistant smarter

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Google's new Search feature gives single result to certain queries. Pixabay
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To make Google Assistant better, the company has announced a new investment programme for early-stage startups to build an enhanced digital assistant ecosystem.

The new initiative will include investment capital from Google to provide additional financial resources for the development, hiring and management of these startups.

The startups will get advice from Google engineers, product managers and design experts to share technical guidance and product development feedback.

“We’re welcoming companies across a diverse range of fields, including startups that are developing technologies that broaden the Assistant’s set of features,” Sanjay Kapoor, Vice President, Corporate Development at Google said in a blog post on Wednesday.

The programme will let startups access to the Google Cloud Platform — the suite of cloud computing services that run on the same infrastructure that it uses for products like Google Search and YouTube.

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Google. Pixabay

The first batch of investments has startups like “GoMoment”, a creator of “Ivy”, a 24/7 concierge for hotel guests, capable of providing instant answers to common questions.

Another early-stage startup is “Edwin” that prepares students looking to take English as a foreign language tests such as the “Test of English as a Foreign Language” (TOEFL).

“Edwin” combines advanced AI technology with the expertise of professional English teachers to tailor lessons according to individual needs, learning style and pace.

“BotSociety” startup has created a tool that allows developers to design, prototype and user test voice interfaces.

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More than 30,000 developers worldwide have designed their voice assistant applications using “Botsociety”.

“With aPulse Labs’, developers can test their applications with real people, quickly acquire in-depth insights, and use that feedback to refine the experience,” Google said.  (IANS)

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Google Shuts Down ‘Censored’ Chinese Search Project

Google had earlier launched a search engine in China in 2006 but pulled the plug in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech and block websites

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A Google logo is displayed at the entrance to the internet based company's offices in Toronto. VOA

Facing widespread criticism over its “censored” Search engine for the Chinese market, Google has reportedly shut down a data collection system that was key to develop the search project code-named “Dragonfly”.

According to a report in The Intercept on Tuesday, the move comes after hundreds of Google employees raised internal complaints that the project had been kept secret from them.

The report found that Google employees, working on the Dragonfly project, “had been using a Beijing-based website to help develop blacklists for the censored search engine”.

The website www.265.com is a Chinese-language web directory service which Google bought in 2008 from a billionaire Chinese entrepreneur.

“265.com provides its Chinese visitors with news updates, information about financial markets, horoscopes, and advertisements for cheap flights and hotels,” said the report.

“As The Intercept reported in August, it appears that Google has used 265.com as a honeypot for market research, storing information about Chinese users’ searches before sending them along to Baidu,” the report added.

Google engineers working on Dragonfly obtained large datasets showing queries that Chinese people were entering into the 265.com search engine.

“Members of Google’s privacy team, however, were kept in the dark about the use of 265.com,” said the report, quoting sources.

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Google shuts down ‘censored’ Chinese Search project: Report. VOA

Now, the teams working on Dragonfly are no longer gathering search queries from mainland China.

“Significantly, several groups of engineers have now been moved off of Dragonfly completely, and told to shift their attention away from China to instead work on projects related to India, Indonesia, Russia, the Middle East and Brazil,” the report claimed.

Google was yet to comment on the report.

Last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told a US House Judiciary Committee that the company had “no plans” to launch a search product in China.

In November, Google employees wrote in an open letter to the company that their “opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be”.

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“Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions,” they wrote.

Google had earlier launched a search engine in China in 2006 but pulled the plug in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech and block websites. (IANS)