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Gemini is about to slide into your DMs

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Google’s got a round of Android and app updates in time for MWC, starting with a new way to chat with its own chatbot Gemini: right inside Google Messages. There’s also a handful of other small updates touching Android Auto, Google Docs, and a couple of new intelligent accessibility features for visually impaired people.

If you’re just dying to DM your new bestie Gemini, you won’t have to wait long — it’s arriving as an update to the Messages app this week, though you’ll need to be enrolled in Google’s beta testing program to access it for now. The same access rules apply so there’s no Google One subscription required, at least for this version. When I tested Gemini alongside ChatGPT a few weeks ago, Gemini left a lot to be desired as a conversational partner. Adding the chatbot to your messaging app is one way to make it feel more like talking to a friend. Gemini in Messages is only available in English for now, and only in “certain markets.”

Watch to the end for someone “reacting” to an AI joke with an emoji.
Image: Google

Android Auto is also getting an AI update, enabling summaries of long texts or chat threads so you can keep your eyes on the road while you catch up. It will also suggest replies and actions based on context, like surfacing the option to share your ETA if a friend asks when you’ll arrive.

Generative AI is also at the center of some accessibility feature updates to Lookout and Maps. Lens in the Google Maps app is getting screen reader enhancements to help identify places of business and provide relevant information about them, like hours of operation. Lookout, which identifies objects and signs for people who are visually impaired, will now automatically generate descriptions for images using AI, including photos online and those shared in messages. Google says this is rolling out globally now in English.

Honestly this looks really helpful.
Image: Google

The last couple of updates in the bunch have nothing to do with AI — they’re just handy. Google’s making a small change to Android that makes it easier to switch output devices when you’re using Spotify — that’s nice! But hands-down my favorite new feature of the bunch is support for handwritten annotations in Google Docs. It’s an update for Android phones and tablets that allows you to choose from a variety of pen and highlighter colors so you can mark notes on a document with your finger or a stylus.

As person who buys too many journals and loves taking notes with a stylus, this brings me great joy. It’ll no doubt be more useful on a bigger canvas like a Pixel Tablet — remember, Google is still trying to make Android tablets happen — or the inner screen of a foldable so you can scribble to your heart’s content. No AI required.



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