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Google wants to help you learn languages, athletics and more

Google search
(Image credit: Google)

During the Google IO 2021 keynote, the search giant revealed a range of updates to its Search services, including improvements to its translation filter and the addition of professional athletes to its AR search - all in the name of learning.

Many of the new features are driven by Google's new Multitask Unified Model - or 'MUM' for short. It allows for enhancements in AI, and gives Google's artificial intelligence the ability to multitask, whereas most AI models do one task at a time.

Google is currently experimenting with MUM, but has confirmed it's already trained across 75 languages and can learn not only from text, but also other assets including images and information in languages you don't speak.

Talk my language

One of the major updates is to the translate filter on Google's Lens camera app, which allows users to point their smartphone's camera at text written in a foreign language and get it translated on-screen.

A trio of new features here include the ability to search for relevant things in relation to the translated text from within the app itself - making it quicker and easier to understand what you're reading and find what you're looking for.

There's support for over 100 languages and the translate feature can even pull information on whatever topic you're studying from websites all over the world - no matter what language they're in, as it will translate the sites before serving the results.

The translate filter can now also read out the text, providing you with the pronunciation of words, aiding the learning and development of language skills.

Finally, you'll also be able to copy and paste translated text, allowing you to send it to others. Google's scenario example for this feature talked about those studying in a second language, with the ability to translate text into their native language and send it to family and friends who may be able to assist them with their studies.

The Google Lens update will be available globally on Android devices (via the Google app and Len app) from May, while the updates will arrive on iOS devices later in the coming months.

Athletes in your backyard

Google is expanding its AR (augmented reality) search to include well-known athletes, providing visual representation of complex sports movements from top performers from around the world.

With the AR integration you can, for example, superimpose a gymnast performing their routine seemingly in your backyard. The idea behind these AR experiences is to get people engaged with different disciplines and to help teach those with aspirations of going pro in the future.

Google already has a number of big names signed up to the service, with more expected in the future. This feature is available from May 18 in the Google app for Android and iOS devices worldwide.

Learning reliably

Google also wants to highlight reliable sources of information, and is improving its 'About this result' feature in search results. It's set to roll out the feature in English language, globally soon, with more languages and greater source information in the pipeline.

The search giant says it wants to provide users access to timely and reliable information, especially around health, politics and current events in an attempt to battle the vast amount of disinformation now on the web.

'About this result' provides information on websites surfaced by search, including a description of the site (pulled from Wikipedia) along with the date it was first indexed and details on whether the connection to the site is secure.

Websites won't be able to edit the information that appears in the 'About this result' section, but they will be able to provide feedback to Google.

Google hopes this additional layer of transparency will help inform users, although it remains to be seen what effect it will have on breaking news and factual information.

John McCann

Global Managing Editor

John got his first phone aged 12 and since then he's been fixated on all things mobile. Previously Phones Editor, John now looks after the day-to-day running of the site. When he's not got his head buried in mobile tech, you'll find John sitting behind the wheel in his regular TR Drives column.