Google Ends Support for Third-Party Smart Displays as Assistant Integration Declines

Google Ends Support for Third-Party Smart Displays as Assistant Integration Declines
Google Ends Support for Third-Party Smart Displays as Assistant Integration Declines

Google has recently announced that it will no longer provide software updates for some of its third-party smart displays, including the Lenovo Smart Display, JBL Link View, and LG Xboom AI ThinQ WK9 Smart Display. This decision reflects a broader shift away from Assistant products.

These displays were initially launched in 2018, shortly after Google introduced its Smart Display platform and Home Hub (now known as Nest Hub) to compete with Amazon’s Alexa. While Google did provide some updates to these devices over the years, they received a different level of attention than its Nest Hub displays.

Although these third-party smart displays will continue to work, they will not receive any new features or updates from Google. This comes as Google has been removing elements from these displays, such as the ability to browse the web. Meanwhile, Google has added new features to its Nest Hub Max, such as “quick phrases” for more accessible commands and support for Matter.

It’s worth noting that Google should have mentioned its Assistant-powered Lenovo Smart Clock 2 in the update, leaving users wondering about its future. This decision by Google raises questions about the direction of its Assistant products and what changes may be in store for the devices that rely on this technology.

Google’s decision to discontinue updates for third-party intelligent displays, such as the Lenovo Smart Display, JBL Link View, and LG Xboom AI ThinQ WK9 Smart Display, reflects a shift away from older Assistant products signifies Google’s focus on generative AI technology like Bard. This move comes as Google aims to distance itself from previous iterations of Assistant and invest more in Bard, as indicated by a memo obtained by CNBC, where the engineering vice president for Google Assistant, Amar Subramanya, was assigned to lead the Bard team.

Furthermore, a report from The Information revealed that Google had invested less in Assistant products for third-party devices such as cars, TVs, headphones, smart home speakers, smart glasses, and smartwatches. The memo from Google Assistant head Sissie Hsiao emphasized a focus on delivering impact to users and Google’s efforts to shift resources accordingly.

These changes are evident in recent moves by Google to reduce dependence on Assistant, including the shutdown of Assistant-powered features like the Driving Mode dashboard and the plan to discontinue Assistant games and apps in June. There are also reports of the potential shuttering of the Google Now Launcher, a feature similar to Assistant introduced in 2014. These actions highlight Google’s strategic realignment towards newer AI technologies like Bard while scaling back support for older Assistant products and initiatives

With Google I/O just around the corner, it remains to be seen if older Assistant technologies will still be featured in new products or if the focus will be on more unique AI advancements. According to a report from The New York Times, Google is expected to showcase several new AI tools at the event. This includes an AI image generation studio, a video summarization tool, and a third version of AI Test Kitchen, an app that allows users to test AI prototypes. These potential additions highlight Google’s continued commitment to pushing the boundaries of AI technology and exploring innovative applications for its products and services.

Uber Takes Action: Funding an E-Bike Buy-Back Program to Tackle Battery Fires and Promote Safety

Uber has announced plans to fund an e-bike buy-back program for delivery workers in New York City in an effort to address the issue of fire-prone batteries on the streets. The company will also support an additional fee on food deliveries to help workers afford safer options. This move comes in response to a concerning rise in e-bike fires in the city, which have resulted in several deaths, including two children in Astoria, Queens, in a recent incident caused by an exploding lithium-ion battery.

Uber is partnering with e-bike company Zoomo and nonprofit organization Equitable Commute Project on two trade-in programs. Delivery workers will have the option to trade in older e-bikes for credit that can be used towards the purchase of a new e-bike. Additionally, they will have access to “rent-to-own” pricing models and priority repairs and services. The amount of credit offered for old e-bikes is still being determined, but Zoomo expects to offer at least $200, according to Streetsblog.

This initiative is in line with recent legislation passed by the New York City Council that prohibits the sale of uncertified e-bikes and other micro-mobility devices and Mayor Eric Adams’ call for private companies profiting from e-bike deliveries to take greater responsibility. Uber’s efforts to address the safety concerns associated with e-bikes in New York City demonstrate its commitment to supporting its delivery workers and promoting safer mobility options.

The Equitable Commute Project will be launching a pilot trade-in program in collaboration with local bike shops, offering discounted UL-certified e-bikes in exchange for non-compliant devices. UL, a private company known for certifying the safety of various consumer products, sets strict standards for e-bike batteries.

E-bikes are crucial for delivery workers, who are predominantly low-income immigrant men, as they rely on them to earn a living. A study commissioned by Uber and conducted by WXY Studios revealed that demand for e-bikes and other micro-mobility vehicles has risen since 2020. In New York City alone, over 65,000 food delivery workers depend on e-bikes, which often use cheaper lithium-ion batteries that have been associated with fires and injuries.

However, the challenge lies in the fact that UL-certified batteries tend to be more expensive than uncertified ones. With delivery workers earning an average of $7.09 per hour according to city labour statistics, affording a UL-certified battery, which can cost $1,000 or more, can be extremely difficult for them. This trade-in program aims to address this issue by providing discounted access to safer e-bikes for delivery workers.

Josh Gold, Senior Director for Public Policy at Uber, emphasized that delivery workers should not have to compromise between their livelihood and safety, expressing support for the company’s innovative partnerships aimed at providing safer e-bikes to delivery workers.

Mayor Eric Adams, who recently announced plans for all ride-hail vehicles in the city to be electric by 2030, commended Uber for their proactive measures in addressing the issue of faulty and uncertified e-bikes that pose risks to lives and properties.

While Uber has not disclosed the exact amount allocated for the buy-back program, the company did announce a donation of $100,000 to the FDNY Foundation for an e-bike safety education campaign.

Uber has also expressed support for implementing a small fee on all food deliveries in New York City to assist workers in transitioning to UL-certified e-bikes. Additionally, the company is backing a bill in the New York State Legislature that aims to establish a “clean rebate program” for e-bikes.

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